After releasing Shopping Carts Crashing, Arrythmia and Antipop Consortium vs. Matthew Shipp, three of the most innovative and unique hip-hop albums of the 21st century, Antipop Consortium broke up in 2002, citing “musical differences” as the primary reason. Between the three emcees, the fracture divided M.Sayyid and High Priest, who’ve gone on to form Airborn Audio, from Beans, who’s released two solo records since the breakup. Each of the three ex-Antipop emcees had completely unique styles, and M.Sayyid retains his here — he’s in good form on Outside the Box. “The Ills” is a spacey ode to post-September 11 life, featuring Sayyid’s seemingly spontaneous rhyme associations, spat in a choppy, mathematical style that’s completely unique to him. Sayyid grabs you around the throat and doesn’t let go — when he’s rapping.
But where’s the snappiness so apparent on the debut Airborn Audio mixtape EP? Yes, the songs on Outside the Box are older now, but Sayyid’s self-produced beats are a little boring, adding little to work with. “The Ills” beat plods along unchanging, even over a bizarre chorus that ends with a Mr. Lif-like warning to American politicians hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of an apathetic populace: “M.Sayyid don’t doze.” “Bent It Dent It” closely follows a similar formula, almost suspiciously so, and the Heat Sensor-produced “All the Lights” is a lazily chilled-out tune featuring High Priest.
Outside the Box is a unique and interesting preview to an upcoming Airborn record featuring a talented and intelligent rapper. But there’s also a spooky hollowness about hearing Sayyid carrying a tune by himself. Not that he’s incapable — cat’s a virtuoso — but after hearing the triple-headed monster of Antipop split into separate entities, it’s something of a letdown when the collaborative interplay is lost. In sum: worthy, but my guess is that Sayyid’s post-Antipop best is still to come.