Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Potholes
Ever since Blu burst onto the scene and into the speakers and headphones of hip-hop aficionados everywhere with Below The Heavens, his astonishing album with producer Exile, it seems people have just been waiting for his next jaw-dropping move. Not that his solo work and projects with Mainframe and Ta’Raach weren’t good (in fact, Johnson&Jonson received great acclaim), he just hadn’t topped himself yet.
Then we have Sene, the budding Brooklyn native, fresh off a very nice mixtape, Maltas & Music. He’s got an interesting flow in that the delivery remains smooth but all the words are sharp and punctual, making sure to never fumble over any lines.
Whenever two relative newcomers, each with strong portfolios, come together, the expectations will be high, and the hype even higher. Thankfully, Sene and Blu are a match made in hip-hop heaven, finding ways to knit their styles together to create a very focused sound. A Day Late & A Dollar Short not only represents the fusion of two of hip-hop’s brightest talents, but it represents the extent to which artists in hip-hop borrow from each other, stylistically.
Blu took a noticeable turn into production this year, releasing a few beat tapes during the summer, sharpening his skills for projects like this. What’s striking about Blu’s work on A Day Late & A Dollar Short its sonic similarity to the overall sounds of Exile’s work on Below The Heavens. There is a bit of grit stirred into the silky keyboards and strings, all served over delicious drum loops that wobble somewhere between boom-bap and left field quirkiness. This is not to say that Blu is Exile; it’s actually quite the opposite. Blu has stepped into his own as a producer, simply borrowing many elements from Exile, while finding unique sounds to work with as well. Check out the horn loop on “Ain’tNoJustice” or the jazzy riffs on “OwlThruGotham”.
Sene also sounds at the top of his game here. It is clear that he has borrowed a bit of Blu’s emceeing style, but like Blu, maintained a definite individuality. The opening cut “PressPlay” makes it obvious that Sene has a positive outlook, which fuels his train of thought throughout this album. He raps often about overcoming all sorts of obstacles, from money struggles, to people putting him down, all the while retaining a remarkably humble, relatable stance, which only adds to his authenticity. In addition, it seems as if Sene has an endless supply of topics to rap about. It’s not that we’ve never heard a track about love (for example) before, but Sene finds a way to give love an original spin. It also doesn’t hurt that Sene can carry the occasional tune for a brief hook (see “EyesDry – TheAfter”).
“WonLover” is a perfect example of Sene & Blu at their best. Sene puts on his best Common-circa-1994-thinking-cap and personifies hip-hop as the one love of his life, detailing its ups and downs. From there, the duo keeps the ball rolling with a gesture to Stevie Wonder on “QuarterWaterSupporter”. It features Sene rapping about his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, proving his ability to relay stories through his rhymes, while a chorus sings a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”.
A Day Late & A Dollar Short is a magnificent example of where hip-hop’s future may lie. It embodies the principle of hip-hop in a pure form – one DJ/producer and one emcee. And most importantly, it spotlights the extraordinary talent of two of the best artists out right now.