Quartermaine is a name that may well be unfamiliar to many, but a lack of prominence shouldn’t be confused with a lack of quality. With Quarter Life Crisis, the polymathic emcee/producer/DJ sets out to bolster his, so far, low-key discography with his first solo LP.
Using Quartermaine’s back catalogue as a starting point, long-time fans, and those like me who did a little homework, will know of a couple of singles released nearly a decade ago under the group name Critically Acclaimed. The trio carried the laid back yet forward thinking sound of Tribe, and even the production was reminiscent of their later Ummah produced works; you could understandably be fooled in thinking they were actual contemporaries as opposed to spiritual successors.
Singling out Quartermaine, over the years we get a handful of features with familiar names like Kev Brown and DTMD, and some virtuosic mixes (which provided many distracting but enjoyable excursions from reviewing the album at hand). However, many will be hearing his first lyric on Quarter Life Crisis as “I got a bad case of the Mondays” on the self-produced opening track “Ducats”, which could serve as a one line synopsis for the entire album. While this track in particular paints a not-too-flattering picture of Quatermaine’s life, you can’t help but feel your spirits lift with each hit of the piano keys that progress the production – almost like how Blu & Exile’s “Blu Collar Workers” didn’t make you feel so bad about wielding a clock-in card on a daily basis.
In fact, Blu isn’t too bad a comparator when it comes to Quarrtermaine’s accessible, everyman rhyme-style. There’s a lot of earnest reflection on this album that I suspect many listeners will empathise with but, in spite of the title, not too much time is spent lingering on the weight of it; there’s enough hopefulness in here to keep the tone afloat. For instance, Quartermaine rocks his hardest flow on the self-affirmative mantra “Me All Day” produced by Joc Max, and calls on Kev Brown to “sound the horn on a brand new day” on the stoic “Beef & Broccoli”. Additionally, there’s an instrumental one-two that stretches out the middle of the album for Quartermaine to accentuate some of the overriding themes with more of his own producer skills. Between them both you’ll get some time for reflection with serious head-nod inducing grooves that hit close to home on the previously mentioned ATCQ references.
On the other side of these are two of the albums strongest tracks. The Ken Wood produced “$oul 4 $ale” threads melancholic piano keys through some chopped guitar work and ethereal woodwind which is given room at the end to unfold and graduate the track into truly potent territory; a production highlight on Quarter Life Crisis. “War Of The Roses” deserves similar acclaim. Now, it can hardly be deemed “sample snitching” with crooning as unmistakable as this, but I’ll play it straight for integrity’s sake. I think the more pertinent issue with samples as rich as this is that they can dominate the track if used in a heavy-handed way but, thankfully, its use here is more nuanced; a great sample use made all the more better in the masterful hands of Kev Brown. This allows Quartermaine to proclaim some on-the-pulse social commentary, switching between an impartial documentarian approach and throwing in his own two-cents – or, as he puts it on “Beef & Broccoli”, “2012 Chuck D shit!“.
In fact, throughout the whole album the rhymes come across very comfortably into the listener’s ears courtesy of the roundtable of local and familiar producers. Quarter Life Crisis’ strengths lie in its cohesive, natural sound; like a tried and tested local recipe, you gain an appreciation for the complimenting ingredients. It’s no surprise to find that the album is being released jointly by Low Budget Records and Redefinition Records, two labels firmly based in one of my favourite creative phases of Hip-Hop. Quarter Life Crisis doesn’t try to reinvent this particular wheel but, when it’s as sturdy and reliable as it is, there is no need to.
Quarter Life Crisis is available now: