We need rappers like High Priest. With hip-hop becoming more commercialized and routine and blah blah blah you know the drill, a record that challenges and surprises is always welcome. This debut from the former Antipop Consortium member (and current Airborn Audio member) is appropriately experimental and dark, but it’s a mixed bag of off-kilter bangers and dubby missteps that drag the album down.
Basically devoid of hooks and guests (TV on the Radio makes a totally unrecognizable appearance on the essentially instrumental closer “Keep Time”), Born Identity has definite standouts among its eighteen tracks, including first single “Pitfalls” (“This could be ’73 or ’07/ a lot of people looking from heaven since 9/11”) and especially “Monk Street,” a brilliantly realistic and piercing drug-dealing song that jolts and stumbles into perfection. But too much of the album becomes repetitive and grating without smooth sections to put the exploration in perspective. The result is an album that deserves more credit for trying to do something different than for actually succeeding artistically. Yes, we need rappers like High Priest, but it’s not entirely clear if we need High Priest specifically.