Panacea – 12 Step Program
Neosonic Productions: 2010
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Panacea was wise to release their newest album 12 Step Program on the fringe of summer. The newest album from the D.C. hip hop group certainly plays itself out proper for a June listening. The breezy, jazz-infused beats and mindful rhymes are an appropriate accompaniment for the warmer months of the year.
The carefree beats will probably by the first thing a listener notices on Step Program. The group’s producer, K-Murdock, supplies 50 minutes of unobtrusive boom-bap accented with jazz. Drums are accompanied by wistful horns, pianos, synths and wind instruments. Across the entire project, beats bloom zen and swell to a peaceful background. A touch of soul seeps in at times, such as stand-out “Immortal”. DJ scratches occasionally enter the mix to successfully augment the throw-back sounds. Once in a while, the music achieves a Native-Tongues’esque quality that pays homage to organic roots. Panacea doesn’t attempt to break new ground on production, but rather, does well to release a faithful collection of serene beats that somehow bang correct while still treading lightly. Save the baffling sample of an infant’s tears on “Incubator Purgatory”, there are no flagrant missteps in the production.
Emcee Raw Poetic provides the rhymes for K-Murdock’s beats on the album. Possessed with a flow that travels at one speed, he spits intelligent raps and informed experiences with little variety. Make no mistake the rhymes on this disc will be categorized as “grown-folks music.” A listener will hear no mention of crime, violence, misogyny or wonton capitalism. Rather, the lyrics revolve around the rapper’s humble encounters with the world. He spits often about the prominence of hip-hop in his life, the drudgery of the daily grind and the pulls of lassitude, conscious and mind-altering experiences.
Unfortunately, Raw Poetic’s phrasing is rarely profound and his flow’s one-dimensional nature keeps it from coming to the forefront of any song. Verses are dropped top speed with no emphasis on the more insightful elements contained. The album could probably benefit from a few guest-choruses, as Raw Poetic often delivers them with the same cadence and flow as his verses. He certainly has something worthy to say, but its unfortunate that the construction of the songs makes it far too easier to glaze over. Repeated listens make it easier to catch the subtle wisdoms, but its still a bit of a chore to pull out the lyrical highpoints from an album at no loss of them
Overall, Panacea gives fans a quality album. One wouldn’t regret popping the disc in the player, rolling down the windows and careening through the countryside. The effort however does not justify its existence above countless other summer-appropriate releases. The monotonous flows keep the album from capitalizing on its fresh production and promising lyrics, and yet, its still an appropriate background for a June afternoon.