When it comes to hip-hop history, Washington is often overlooked, rarely receiving a mention in comparison to the likes of New York, California and the South. And yet despite the cities low-key profile, it has delivered a number of hidden gems, with albums from the likes of Oddisee, Asheru and Panacea springing to mind. Kev Brown is one of the city’s best underground producers having worked on projects with LMNO and more recently MindsOne. Kev’s production tends to be soulful and stripped down to produce an organic sound.
On paper this style seems like a perfect match for Raw Poetic, an emcee who needs no introduction from regular readers of Word Is Bond. Raw P sounds best with a single producer, in the same way CL Smooth was on top of his game with Pete Rock. The one emcee and one producer combo enables a level of consistency which has provided the basis for many classics. This was the format for his combination with K-Murdock, known together as Panacea. Therefore, Concentrated Maneuvers will be judged against the high standards Raw P has set for himself previously.
First things first; this album is experimental. The opening track ‘My Story’ has an intentionally broken feel to it, an eerie sound bite that serves almost like an invite into a dream World. Raw P energetically announces himself on Think Much to a back drop of a soft guitar piece, which also features Kev Brown narrating on the track’s outro, comparing his style to early Grand Puba. Each track features an interview snippet from Kev who explains his passion for production and where his inspiration came from. Track lengths are short and generally feature one verse from Raw P who exudes character and breathes new life into the instrumentals.
Although not the most common album format, there is a precedent set for this style before, the likes of J Dilla’s Donuts, or MF Doom’s short tracks which leave the listener wishing there was more. ‘Preacher Man’ is an album highlight thus far, an uptempo number which suits Raw P’s rapid fire delivery. ‘Watch It Sucka’ continues the heavenly feel, with rich sounding horns providing a foot tapping experience. With each beat having it’s own distinct identity, it’s a chance for Raw P to show off his diverse number of flows and compete for your attention with his own melodic brand of lyricism.
On ‘The Put On’ he raps “When I think of all my girlfriends back in the day, all I think about is the ways that a brother has changed, and I really wanna wish you the best on your way, water under the bridge… I’d just like to call this another coming of age”, Raw P’s lyrics are mostly uplifting and reflect a refreshing maturity. ‘Protest Music’ has a get up off your seat vibe, demanding you dance along with the song’s political message. A feature from Kaimbr combines well with Kev Brown’s head nodding production.
Perhaps the most poignant piece of narration comes from Kev on ‘Marching Band Kragenoff’ when he proclaims ”I love short stories more than I love short novels, and this is a short story album”. ‘Timet’ is the albums longest song at just over three minutes, it is also my favourite track with intriguing piano loops and a crackly aesthetic blending perfectly with Raw P’s rapping. The last track, entitled ‘Transfer’, features the quotable line ”Primitive minds will always be racist; goodness gracious”, and a quick fire style in general, attempting to fit as much as possible into just over one minute.
And thus the album draws to a close, it felt like a pleasant but short journey with two creative artists at the top of their game enjoying what they do best – making great hip-hop music. This LP is above all fun, and is the type of record you could play loudly at a party without having your neighbours complain. There was an effortless feel to the project with an understanding that Kev and Raw P could deliver these snippets all day. There is a genuine chemistry between the two artists that means we can surely expect another project again from them in the future.