Aggression in rap has taken a different form within the last few years. No longer is a gruff voice over a dusty loop good enough to get you out of your seat and throw your laptop through the window. Nowadays you need layers upon layers of modulation and squealing synths stacked below an MC tearing apart everything you’ve ever known and loved. It’s enough to make you want to listen to some oldies.
If you do, there’s nothing wrong with giving The Simpson Tape a spin or two. Another Stones Throw collaboration between Guilty Simpson and Oh No, the project’s definitely not pushing boundaries; then again, if you’re good at what you do, there’s not always a need.
Consisting of five songs, and their respective instrumentals, The Simpson Tape is a short affair — a quick fix for the traditionalist in you. Simpson sounds at home on wax, as he always has. He’s one of the most consistent yet seldom praised veterans still in the game. Same goes for Oh No, which is part of the beauty of Stones Throw. It’s rarely at the forefront of hip-hop culture, but the label can subtly drop projects where they interchange artists on their roster and the output is always solid.
The lead single, “Rap Stampede,” kicks it off at the highest point. Oh No keeps a slick guitar lick looping in the background as Simpson shreds, having not sounded so perturbed since Random Axe. It’s a refreshing burst of energy before the tape settles into a slower tempo for the next four tracks. “Look Alive” offers a solemn tone — Guilty’s introspective look into his community — not unlike Kendrick Lamar’s O.D. standout, “Ignorance Is Bliss.” The real gem in the album, though, comes toward the end. “Rolled” boasts the type of beat Guilty built his career on. Unhurried drums and choppy soul samples recall the heyday of a certain late Detroit producer, and could easily slide right into any of his late career albums.
The Simpson Tape will have a nostalgia effect on anyone who fell in love with the smoky-voiced thug from his days of riding only the purest Dilla beats. Between those backdrops and Simpson’s thick, husky delivery, it bleeds old-time. Hell, the damn thing was even released as a cassette at first. It’s brief, even for an EP, but that works to its advantage. Any more time spent in the ’90s and this would have been a Joey Bada$$ project. But instead, we have the gruff Guilty Simpson, the same one we had 10 years ago, and the same one we’ll probably have in 2024. Not doing anything different, but doing it very well.
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase The Simpson Tape here.