I wrote in a previous review I don't pretend to know or understand meaning behind songs and albums and concepts, I just listen to the music and if I like it I explain why, if I don't I give it a bad review and move on. This album, I like very very much. It is inconsistent, it doesn't flow between tracks, Cadence Weapon at times sounds drugged, out of time, amateurish even, and the production falls in to the category of 'good effort, could have tried harder though'. But I like it and I will explain why.
His last album, Afterparty Babies, feels like it was released before I was even born it was so long ago. 2008, I was a different human in 2008, and the way I interacted with Cadence back then is in stark contrast to how this album impacted on me. I think both of us have grown somewhat. On Afterparty Babies, Cadence's voice was not that of an old hip hop head, he was only 22. It was one that yearned to be heard, that was shouting doors down trying to tell you just how good he was. It was amateurish in comparison with compatriot Drake, who told you how good he was, safe in the knowledge that he knew you already respected and loved him. Cadence felt like he was pushing himself upon you in nervous and self-conscious fashion. Hope In Dirty City projects a calmer, safer, less concerned persona. I have no idea what he has done between albums, but he has grown immensely in to a confident artist, the one he so yearned to be in 2008.
It transfers itself on to the record in a curious way. He may sound more self assured, more mature, but the boasting is absent. He perveys a collection of stories, some with himself as the main character, some as just an observer. The excellent Hype Man describes the duties of a close roadie, a best friend and confidante. He takes on the persona of the hype man and the rapper to whom he is tied, and there is this back and forth that feels natural, like this is a conflict he has experienced, although most likely from the more illustrious side. At the end of the track he speaks 'So you're saying you don't need my services anymore, I'm sorry to hear that, but I want you to know this job has meant a lot to me'. It's actually quite touching in an off-handed way, Cadence distances himself from the whole process with a cold delivery but it feels like a situation he's experienced.
The lack of self-promotion leaves the record feeling slightly bare in spite of itself. Jukebox is a jaunty waltz through a horn section and a phrenetic yet laid-back delivery from Cadence. Crash Course For The Ravers is another heart-starter, featuring an excellent chorus line 'she's uncertain if she likes him but she knows she really loves him'. Hit quite close to home for me, although I believe this track to be aimed at those a little younger in age than myself. It's a nice change from the less than impressive chorus construction that Cadence has undergone. No More Names is a Xanax-induced drift, which is nice until the chorus kicks in and rocks you gently to sleep. Small Deaths boasts the lyrics 'I know you know, you know I know you know I know you know...' It gets a bit slippery in the middle there. Disappointing.
Horns are prevalent however, and that is a very good thing. The production on a Cadence Weapon record has always been left of centre, on Afterparty Babies it was quite genius. Hope In Dirty City feels like it's older brother in that respect. Whilst the previous album was throbbing synths filtered through a variety of styles, the new record replaces those at times cartoonish licks with horns and piano, like the first time you listened to Miles Davis and realised that this was actually what grown-ups listen to as they progress in age. It lends itself to the image of a more mature artist, and detracts only in the sense that you feel it could've been tighter, it feels floppy. There We Go is like driving along in 5th gear at 10km/h, its a sleepy bore. Get On Down starts solidly, train track beat, then goes where? I don't get it. Nothing seems to link up, the drums feel isolated, and there is something happening somewhere at the back of the studio but I can't hear it properly and I spent an entire 5 listens trying to work out what it was. Weird.
However, there are 2 songs on this album that are absolutely stark stunners in comparison to the quagmire to be found everywhere else. Conditioning and (You Can't Stop) The Machine. Firstly conditioning, the lead off single. Starts solidly, the drums are tight and pounding. I don't know if you noticed but sometimes Cadence has a purpose in his voice, you can hear it when his pitch creeps up a little. As soon as he starts rhyming here the purpose is clear. By the time he explodes in to his shouted second verse you're well hooked on his emotion and his picture. He's talking about himself, which is excellent and scarce and yet it is when he is at his best. 'I weight train as a form of dismissal'. 'I live in bad condition but, I got my conditioning, I know my numbers almost up, it's so over but I'm so broken up'. This is what I miss so much. Relatable content, he just throws it out so casually but lines with such substance and such drama rarely fall without an impression. Excellent.
And of course, the track with my favourite artist of all time, Buck 65. I didn't even recognise him on first listen, he sounds like he is yelling his verse through 2 ply glass whilst running on a treadmill, it's insane. Of course it is fire and it steals the limelight from Cadence until he comes back on the 3rd verse with a dry and understated stanza that contrasts perfectly with Bucks energy. 'So I took your name and crossed my fingers for you cause you don't look much like Whitney Houston/ You look more like whitey houston/ not that there's anything wrong with that..'
Buck's verse, in its entirety, because it is absolute fire and the best verse I've heard so far in 2012:
Jupiters diamon ocean's I'm the scarecrow/ the sexy machine gave me the millionaire flow/ gave me the voice of an angel, made my hair grow, got the skin of a snake made out of underwear bro/ high class works of art that's real rare yo/ backstage pass at the international air show/ let all of my worries and my despair go/ pissing in the swimming pool and I don't even care though!/ bending way over, I'm straighter than an arrow/ chillin like Hercules livin like a Pharoah/ quick like a bunny rabbit fly like a sparrow/ taking my money to the bank in a wheelbarrow/ brand new tits and my hips are real narrow/ solid gold Camaro platinum sombrero/ shouts goin out to Tommy Carrero/ I'm number one and the rest of y'all is ZERO!
8/10. Those two tracks are pure genius and the best 2 songs I've heard in 2012. Pulls this release up so much. Despite it's inconsistency it has a niggling charm that immediately infects you. It fades with time, but it was still there, and it's not Cadence Weapons fault that I've now overplayed this release.
Standout Tracks - Conditioning, (You Can't Stop) The Machine, Hype Man