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Tuamie - Emergency Raps, Vol. 3 Music Album Reviews

The Virginia producer lays out chopped loops for the surrealistic rapper Koncept Jack$on, whose narrow-eyed presence plays off the rest of the Mutant Academy crew.

Mutant Academy is built on the sort of hip-hop that emphasizes precise lyricism wrapped in crime mythology. For the Richmond, Virginia collective, making a song a song is an afterthought—hooks arrive as more of an exit route than the centerpiece. Slang talk might come too rapidly to decipher in real time, and that exclusivity becomes a shared source of pride for enthusiasts—in Pusha-T’s words, if you know you know. Emergency Raps, Vol. 3 is so real that a durag packet, the biggest hallmark of black men’s hair care behind a brush, serves as the project’s cover.

Helmed by the collective’s producer Tuamie, the Emergency Raps series stars each of Mutant Academy’s four core rappers. Following efforts from laidback straight-talker Henny L.O. and flow-focused Big Kahuna Og, Vol. 3 centers on the group’s most impressionistic member, Koncept Jack$on. Though his reference points are well within concrete-jungle street rap’s ethos, but his eccentric touch and the speed with which he tosses images at you press into surrealist territory. The album’s most potent example is the hallucinatory second track, “Plant Based.” Koncept takes us through a series of disjointed scenes in a brisk two minutes; he’s first forced to kill a clerk to avoid being identified, and, without giving much more context, makes his way through boasting about how his “mind’s eye can fry your whole genes” and triumphs with “complimentary alkaline water we find through concubine daughters.” He’s James Joyce in a wave cap.

Many of Koncept’s verses unfurl like a set of mini-anthologies. Their sense of continuity lies in his narrow-eyed presence and tangly internal rhyme schemes. “The Bitch in U” paints himself as a cozy boy and enforcer with that technical ability as his throughway (“Fuck your ego bro I’mma beat your ass in front these people/Hold the reefer while doing so”) Even familiar tropes feel renovated through Jack$on’s tongue-twisting phrasing, like on the casual boast “Fellows drink Amaretto with scotch, yo/Stilettos my hoes rock” on “Lost Cause Bros.” Though he’s exceptional on his own, Koncept performances tend to work better as songs when he’s bouncing off of a collaborator. Emergency Raps’ most dynamic moments occur when he’s sparring with groupmate Fly Anakin’s shrill shit-talk (“It’s My Life”) or weaving as Nickelus F bullies his way through punchlines (“Wet Ear Yungin’”).

Save for the cloudy “Plant Based,” Vol. 3 features Tuamie quieting his psychedelic urges for mainly sepia-toned two-bar loops. The tighter approach works in a way that feels very specific to Koncept, tethering his knotty tales to familiar grounds as well as doing most of the emotional heavy-lifting. The standout example is Emergency Raps opener “Stokley Wit Me,” where Tuamie’s simple but sultry vocal loop gives Jack$on’s hard-living missives a luscious mood. Tuamie’s soulful quality also links Koncept and Mutant Academy to the sound of East Coast hip-hop’s lineage.

Speaking of whom, Koncept Jack$on brings to mind fellow stream-of-conscious stylist Ghostface Killah. Even as the lines flew over the head, Ghostface’s verses were compelling because he sounded as bugged out as the bugged-out shit he was saying. Koncept’s furious monotone doesn’t carry that color, and his pace combined with Emergency Raps’ 27-minute timespan hardly give his ideas room to breath even as Tuamie’s production lets him be the star. A better entry point to Koncept’s hood funhouse is last year’s looser, 18-track Panama Plus, another collaboration with Tuamie and Fly Anakin. Emergency Raps is the digestible, Coogi’d-up supplement.

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