Before the sound fades on 1982’s intro track, it’s clear that this collaborative album will be heavy on homage. Both Termanology and producer Statik Selektah were born in 1982 and enjoyed childhoods immersed in the east coast’s golden age of hip hop. Before the second song even begins, they leave humility to the faint-of-heart and express their intentions of becoming the next Gang Starr, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, or Kool G Rap and Polo. With this debut album, the Massachusetts duo makes music deserving such comparisons.
Statik Selektah has found success (two solo albums, a digital release with Saigon and other notable production work) with an unapologetic East Coast sound. His lush boom-bap is soulful but not sappy. Complex but not cluttered. Hard without overpowering. Soul samples and jazz-leaning songs get spread out amongst brash brawl-ready beats keeping the disc from ever approaching repetitive. It’s of little importance that there isn’t much experimentation when each beat reminds the listener of the hip hop from the ’80s and ’90s that is often considered the genre at its creative apex.
Termanology comes with a mixtape-tested delivery in the style of well-seasoned east-coast spitters. While his flow boarders on one-dimensional, he is nimble in his sentences with enough gristle clinging the edge of his voice to match the more raw beats. Termanology’s part punch-line part bravado-laced observational rhymes reveal a typical hip-hop persona: the street-wise thug (“The Street Life”) who steps out from behind the mean-mug long enough to reveal an optimistic artist (“Still Waiting”), smooth-talking ladies man (“Wedding Bells”) and socially mindful role model (“The Hood is on Fire”). The conventional perspectives remain interesting because of how seamlessly Termanology transitions from one to another without ever coming across as too calculating.
1982 boasts an impressive cast of guest emcees. East-coast legends M.O.P. and Freeway as well as Inspectah Deck, Styles P, Bun B, Xzibit and Saigon all drop solid verses atop the spectacular production. Each artist brings a performance worthy of his reputation and serves to showcase the versatility of Statk’s beats. They occasionally give spotlight-stealing performances (especially Xzibit, M.O.P and the Saigon/Freeway collaboration) that de-emphasize this as an album from a hope-to-be legendary duo and give it more of a mixtape vibe. I can’t argue that they shouldn’t be included, but it’s troubling to have a debut album where some of the best verses are delivered by guest emcees.
The difficulty with trying to re-capture the brilliance of a passed era is the inherent impossibility to recreate the out-of-nowhere freshness that helped make it a time to be remembered in the first place. Termanology and Statik Selektah have good reason to look to the east-coast pioneers and are skilled in exploring that sound, but by following a lead they cannot come with the creativity and originality that made those records classics. But even if 1982 fails to put the duo onto the same ground-breaking level as the artists they admire, it does succeed in delivering quite a few great moments that should make their hero’s proud and stands on its own as a damn-fine album.