It’s no secret that Boston has produced a lot of outstanding Hip-Hop to date. I could unfurl a long scroll of names that I regularly keep in rotation such as Insight, Mr. Lif, Edan, Dagha and, in more recent years, Will C. After his frankly stellar début album Evil In The Mirror I’ve been a keen subscriber to his output, and now we have his second LP at hand - Eli’s Prism.
Much like the aforementioned emcees, Will C. is one of the sharpest quick draw rappers you’ll likely hear. For those who don’t spin a lot of fast rap, this album may well induce sensory overload with its torrent of rhymes, but fortunately not to the exhaustive extent of, say, Percee P’s Perseverance or Binary Star’s Masters Of The Universe (don’t get me wrong, they’re both amazing albums but I personally struggle to make it through them in one sitting). At a lean 39 minutes, Eli’s Prism makes for a satisfying morsel of Hip-Hop that can be enjoyed without premature mental saturation. Having said that, the rhymes are often vacuum-packed with lyrics that require some real auditory stamina on the listener’s part to keep pace with the narratives. This is a compliment however, not a critique, as it gives Eli’s Prism genuine replayability; this is an album that will tell its full story over repeated listens.
Some aspects of Will C.’s story are shared in tracks like “Eli’s Prism”. It’s both nostalgic with its reminiscing lyrics and forward-looking as it draws strength and perspective from past memories. Raised on an older sibling’s cassettes myself, I can connect with lines like “When I was five, biting a rhyme on a tape/ You kicked Das EFX I tried to relate”. Similarly, “Origins” fittingly connects the dots between a young Will C. emulating wrestling matches, Ocarina of Time and messing with break beats. The production is slightly understated compared to the rest of the album, but it fits the sentiments perfectly making the listener feel like they’re flicking through a sepia-toned photo album. The same assuredness for direction can be said too for “Skywalker Water” with its poignant sonar melody and sharp keys reminiscent of a Raymond Scott formulation, and the instrumental backdrop that closes out “Eli’s Prism”; just some examples of a producer-emcee crafting a statement of intent with every track.
Elsewhere, Will C. extrapolates the spirit of Tribe’s “Buggin’ Out” on “Under Pressure” picking up where he left off from Evil In The Mirror’s “Trainspotting”, but this time the observant lyrics are given a lot more venom. Likewise on “Mister Love Song”, the notion of such a thing is ousted from the genre of Hip-Hop with style, ending the track with a couple of apt samples from two of the greatest. Of all the microphone fiendishness on the album though (including all the great guest features), one of the most noteworthy moments has to be on “Stadium Fights” where Will C. delivers a true “knock ‘em out the box” verse; effortlessly buoyant over the beat with relentless diction.
Ultimately, I think the only thing that could be levelled against this album is that it potentially might not be your thing. Fans, however, are in for a treat with Eli’s Prism and new ears are sure to prick up with the talent on deck from some of Boston’s finest. Inspirations from the Beastie Boys and Big Daddy Kane could be understandably drawn but at this point in Hip-Hop – who hasn’t been influenced by them? Regardless Will C. has always managed to retain his own personality within his work, and this album is perhaps his most personal offering yet.