Finding quality Hip Hop in today’s music climate can be a bit of a task. No disrespect to mainstream music, but a lot of Hip Hop has lost its signature sound and identity to broaden its sounds and reach the masses. It’s nice when you find artists who take the scenic route when putting together an album (meaning, putting together and entire ‘quality’ project, not just a CD with 2 singles and bunch of garbage).

When I first popped in the new self-titled Black Noise CD, I had a good idea I’d enjoy it. After all, Aarophat and Illustrate are two artists I’ve kept on my radar. But what I got from this 15-cut release is a hell of a lot more than just ‘good‘.

Black Noise resonates like a lost gem from the 90’s. It has style, substance and a respect for Hip-Hop’s glory years, without sounding stale or rehashed. Illustrate’s production sounds incredible. One of the few sample-based producers not trying to mimc J-Dilla and 9th Wonder. He shows that anyone can sample and make drum tracks, but it takes real skill to put it all together and produce quality beats. Aarophat’s delivery is on-point as ever, but with this release, he shows his talent is not just ‘writing‘ dope lyrics, but delivering qualify performances, determined by the track. Each of Illustrate’s tracks have a little something ‘different’ to them, and Aaro fine-tunes his flow to fit ‘perfectly’ in the cut.

The track “In The Trunk” brings back memories to West Coast Hip Hop’s heyday. Bouncin’ lo-riders, jheri curls and block-rockin’ beats! Illustrate takes a tired Parliament sample and breathes new life into it. The drums are crisp and that damn hook will be stuck in your head for months to come. “Chips” is my favorite cut on the CD. This is just stripped down, in your face beats and rhymes. I consider it the real introduction to the group. Illustrate’s beautifully EQ’d sample with Aarophat’s rapid-fire delivery shows Black Noise is a force to reckon with. But you can tell that “MidWestKids” is the anthem on this CD. Another cut rooted with an old school foundation, the track screams for a posse cut extended mix. Again, Aarophat tailors his lyrics to sit nicely on top of Illustrate’s patented ‘dirty drumz‘. And just when you think it’s over, they give you a “reprised” version with excellent guest flows by Boog Brown and Small Eyez.

All-in-all, Black Noise is one the best Hip-Hop releases so far this year. You won’t find this one for purchase everywhere so unfortunately, you might have to do some footwork to get. But these 15 joints are well worth the effort.

[Click to buy Black Noise from CDBaby]

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By Todd Kelley