The Philadelphia-based Mind State of the Art pays homage to classic hip-hop on its self-titled, self-released debut, but the group exhibits considerable forward-thinking methodology as well. Emcee Stainless Steele floats on the articulate lyrical end of the game while DJ Image produces all of the beats and makes room for plentiful cuts in nearly every track. Steele drops smooth, boast-laden quips faster than the zeros fall from my dwindling checking account (“My style is intricate like the design of a dollar bill”) but also offers introspective verse a la Illogic or Blueprint.
Guests on the album bring colorful, progressive instrumentation that accent the duo’s knack for creating the hip-hop they were raised on while pushing the envelope with alternate means of percussion and the like. Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood handles drum duties on “Salt Water,” which also appeared on the Martin-produced beats and remix compilation, Drop the Needle, in 2002. A good start from two heads who have learned much from looking backward and forward.