The latest edition to New York-based Coup d’Etat, French for “to blow the state,” Boston’s Akrobatik joined the ranks of hip-hop notables Fakts One and MC Paul Barman. Preceded by an EP and two 12 inches, Balance is the first full-length from Akrobatic, “Boston’s finest emcee and one of the major driving forces behind the city’s hip-hop scene.” A fine display of his hometown style of choppy hip-hop and contributions by deejays galore, Akrobatik firmly establishes his spot in the underground hip-hop’s elite. Though Balance sparkles with lyrical and musical jewels, it also highlights Ak’s lack of LP-length stamina.
Most often mentioned for his collaboration with long-time friend and fellow Bostonian Mr. Lif, Akrobatik is unaccustomed to having the limelight for an entire album, and consistency for 15 tracks is this album’s glaring fault. Attempting to keep his hard, no nonsense, not-stereotypical political edge, Akro seems to focus repeatedly on trite but admittedly relevant topics. Still, having a cause is better than nothing, right?
Apparently chosen for its head-nodding beat, the title track “Balance” bounces through the rapper’s thoughts on school violence, objectification of women and drug use in America, among many other valuable messages for today’s young folk, interspersing the discussion with the word “balance” (okay, drowning – Ak managed to squeeze “balance” into the under-four-minute track at least 34 times). Still, Fakts One helps negate the repetitive lyrics, helping to keep the song on the list of Balance‘s notable tracks. Serving as a gateway to the rest of the albums lyrical content, the emcee hits on just about everything he sees in everyday life that pisses him off, making it an abstract or index to the later songs’ in-depth gripes with society.
The infectious beats of Fakts One and Ak’s hilarious commentary make “Hypocrite” one of Balance‘s best tracks. Though Ak claims “I don’t talk shit/ Shit talkers are mostly feeble,” he does manage to throw darts at many laughable images of today’s hip-hop world. Continuing the indirect mockery, Ak tees off on the latest trend of rapper-turned-Justin Timberlake: “You tried to cross over/ Now you shook in your boots/ I made and album with no singing and I still clock loot.” Staying mostly on the sideline of mainstream hip-hop stereotypes, the urge to use popular female imagery was apparently too easy to ignore. Contradicting earlier messages about the genre’s views on females, Ak touts: “If you see me with a honey/ Best believe she’s half black/ I won’t hit the booty unless it’s type fat.”
As expected, the reemergence of pal Mr. Lif on “Wreck Dem” is the album’s undeniable climax. Short and powerful, the track stays in line with the two’s other successful collaborative efforts. Matching Ak with Mr. Lif, an already established staple of underground hip-hop, the emcee shows that he can not only keep up with the best, but even offer a little bit of his own thing.
Already acknowledged by many as one of the year’s best albums, and posted clearly at the top of CMJ’s hip-hop charts, Balance has forced Akrobatik into the underground hip-hop forefront, a position he already feels pretty damn comfortable in. Still, with one full-length under his belt, I’d be happy to see him go the distance with his next effort.