It is sometimes difficult as a hip-hop fan to always connect with the messages rappers convey in their music. Of course, a listener does not always have to personally connect with the lyrics of a song; one need not have lived in Queensbridge in 1994 to feel what Nas is saying on Illmatic. However, some artists have so greatly distanced themselves from everybody else with their words that it distracts from the music. How is the average person supposed to react when Jay Z raps about his art collection? People of Today, the first full-length collaboration between rapper yU and producer Slimkat, is very much an album that aims to connect its message with everybody who hears it. As the album starts: “Sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, older, younger, fighters, lovers, O.G.s, newcomers, lower class all the way to the upper. We are people of the world today.”
The message of The 1978ers is very much one of positivity, and yU is starting up where he just recently finished off. This album comes only one month after March on Washington, a brilliant collaboration with Oddisee and Uptown XO as Diamond District with similarly hopeful sentiment. Everybody prominently involved with March on Washington and People of Today hails from Washington, D.C. If one simply turns on the news, one will be bombarded with negativity rooted in the United States’ capital city. Not only does the District face common urban issues such as poverty and crime, it also is a host to the various political scandals and corruption performed by those who are supposed to help fix the country’s problems. Having such an outspoken force of positivity from a city that can be such a dark place is an incredible asset. yU believes that we as people of the world can rise above the negativity that surrounds us, no matter who we are.
yU is an incredibly capable rapper, with some silky smooth flows and a great ability to really emphasize the messages in his lyrics. On tracks like “Sacreligious” in particular, yU expertly switches up his delivery as well as lyrical tools like alliteration and assonance to really get his words through to listeners. Most of People of Today finds yU with a silky smooth style, but he is also able to approach a track with a more aggressive style as seen on the brief “Gentlest Ones.”
The breakout star of People of Today is, undoubtedly, Slimkat’s production. Throughout the record’s 18-track, 56-minute runtime, Slimkat presents himself as a versatile and skillful producer, conquering a multitude of different styles. The album starts with a very jazzy backdrop defined by groovy bass and hard drum kicks on “One-Nine-7-T-8” and the phenomenally funky “In The Way.” Tracks like “U Know How It Iz” and “Without a Clue” incorporate vocal samples into the beat in a way that has rarely been done this masterfully since College Dropout-era Kanye West. With more smooth, atmospheric production on “Develop” and “Give It Up” later in the album, Slimkat shows he is a complete package when it comes to making beats.
Unfortunately, the brilliance of Slimkat’s production is somewhat of a double-edged sword. As previously stated, yU is no slouch on the mic and brings his absolute A-game on tracks like “FAR” and the aforementioned “Sacreligious.” Yet the beats on here are so nice it’s sometimes easy to feel lost in the vibes provided by Slimkat and almost ignore what yU has to say. Of course, terrific production outweighing great lyrics and messages is a very good problem to have, and luckily the soulful soundscapes reflect those messages bountiful in yU’s lyrics, even to a listener not hanging on every word.
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase People of Today here.