"A Tandem Of Giants"
Rappers are not social creatures. They are, by and large, insecure, defensive, greedy monsters who will die before giving another rapper time to shine on their song. This mentality makes two MC rap groups the equivalent of a circus side show attraction. It's usually one MC clearly out classing the other, while neither has the space to do his thing the way they would on a solo song. Groups like Organized Konfusion and OutKast managed the delicate balance of featuring each rapper's strengths, while truly complementing each other's style.
The Silversmiths have done their homework on these blueprints and their latest album, "A Tandem Of Giants", is the fruit of that labor.
MCs Sankofa and Jon?Doe, with producer Agent Orange, form a three headed monster that wields cohesion and focus that Cerberus and Ghidorah only wish they had. The worst thing a two MC rap group can have is too many similarities between the MCs. Yes, there should be a certain amount of like mindedness, but if you can't tell one from the other, your attention fades to the point where both become the same bland, generic rapper.
Sankofa and Jon?Doe will never have this problem. Their voices alone set them apart. Jon?Doe spits with a semi-nasal sense of self importance that makes you want to listen to what he has to say. And once he has you, he doesn't betray that trust. His subject matter never varies from what every other rapper talks about, but he wraps that matter in acid tongued wordplay and bizarre cultural references that illustrate how seriously he takes his job as an MC. Nothing is haphazard in his words.
This is one thing that make his Silversmiths partner, Sankofa, similar. But in contrast to Doe's stabbing vocals, Sankofa's booming voice comes down from on high with the authority only someone who's been through the rigors of independent hip-hop can speak with. At times reminiscent of Chuck D and Lyrics Born, Sankofa can fast rap as well as any Percee P or Twista, but it's used more for practicality than a cheap party trick.
As for the beats, producer Agent Orange deserves a ton of credit for never getting redundant, yet staying consistent, over 17 tracks of differing rap styles. The Silversmiths run the gamut of rap subject matter. From how much better than you at rapping they are, to your significant other's preference for them, to lamenting how much rap really sucks anymore. Again, what sets them apart is just how clever they are. In the hands of a gifted rapper, as is the case here, the same old same can sound new.
While their individual styles are definitely born of the late 90s indy rap heyday, there's something distinctly old school about the way the Silversmiths dish the mic back and forth. Remember how Run and DMC used to be able to spit just a couple of words, then pass off to the other, rather than each guy do a whole verse? Clearly Sankofa and Jon?Doe remember that.
As I said up top, rappers aren't social creatures. They don't play well with others. But these guys, The Silversmiths, are not your average rappers. They are weird Giants amongst conformist normals. The courage to be different is admirable; the skills to make it listenable, however, is deserving of a fan base, and I hope they get it before, like other giants, they go extinct.
PS. Jesus Christ. The last track, "What A Way To Go Out", is the hardest fucking thing I've heard in a long time.