Washington State has another champion coming out of its coastal seaport this season. Proclaimed as “King of the Northwest”, Luck-One Conscious from Portland recently put out his 7th independent release at 12AM EST yesterday morning and shattered the ears of the Hip-Hop Interwebs. Titled “K.O.T.N.W. II: Curse Of The Pharaoh”, Luck’s album serves listeners with a palate of prolific sound that is crafted with committed and furious detail, providing a careful balance between conscious and party rap. Between incorporating the elements of nostalgic hip-hop of the mid-90’s – conscious rap of industry favorites like Black Star and Nas as well as classic party rap of Biggie and Pac at their peak – this body of work proves to be diverse and eclectic in taste, giving listeners a continent of choice and endless opportunity for discovery in a fresh-water of sound.
This week, the self-identifying gangster rapper invited me over to his humble abode up in Harlem to preview his album before it hit the Internet, and also to converse on general topics ranging from Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, the military and prison-industrial complexes, death of black-owned businesses, the falsehood of nationalism, and corny conscious rap. From our private listening session, I discerned a list of my top 10 favorites from an all-day listen through of this monster 20-track project. Here’s the verdict:
10. I Like It ft. J Burns (Prod. by Reignstate):
Here, we get a glimpse of the cool and cocky alter-ego of Luck on this track with the earthy production by Reignstate. Commenced with glassy chimes and sugary Casio piano keys of 90’s RnB classics, this chopped and screwed beat puts listeners into the backseat of a hoopty, riding around Harlem in the middle of winter on their way to a house party off of Malcolm X Boulevard. A fun and carefree track, Luck shows off his laid back demeanor with an effortless flow, inked on a canvas to blueprint a scene made of an endless night of partying-and-bullshitting, pretty girls with 40s, and rooms packed with blunts, cyphers and swishers. This track undeniably throws us back to A$AP Rocky’s “Peso” in instrumental and flow. A definite stand-out track, J Burns hammers out a dope verse with bars filled with “a house of goons” and spacey imagery of him “[B]out to zoom / til it’s like, June”. Overall, I like it, too.
9. Malcolm X BLVD ft. Juliannah Vasquez (Prod. by Mike Mo):
An honest picture of present-day New York City, Luck takes us into a time machine with this J Dilla-esque beat and through the gentrified, culturally rich, and legendary uptown neighborhood of Harlem located in the heart of one of the most historic boulevards in Manhattan. Home of the world’s most prolific writers, musicians, revolutionaries, and leaders, this track is fresh with rounded bass lines, swelling string melodies, sultry harmonic vocals from Vasquez, and a bom-bat snare that holds all of Mike Mo’s production with a sticky thread. Embodying the evolution of Black American music through a silk screen of a killer flow, Luck sifts African-American history into a colorful bowl of accomplishments, struggle, proud moments and grand reminiscence. An appropriate track for this month’s release, this piece is iconic in sound and surely solid in production.
8. Money & Success ft. Chris McCain (Prod. by Trox):
Sucking us into a multiverse of futuristic jazz with a sustaining bass, an airy trumpet, and basic drum kit, Luck and McCain brings us into an empty room to philosophize with listeners about the line drawn between ideas of money and real success. This partially satirical track kicks us hard in the cranium with tough lessons of buying success and earning stripes through strife and struggle. Speaking on the dangerous trappings of capitalist pursuit, Luck breaks down a complicated topic of fiscal irresponsibility of hip-hop artists, drawing back DuBois’ “Veil” that has functioned to blind average citizens in their pursuit of the American Nightmare. The last verse tying together lose ends possibly lost in the rest of the track, Luck further oxidizes his flow with a succinct conclusion, leaving listeners with relics of truth to close out its large message. A powerful piece, this might be one of the most complex and articulate conscious raps I’ve heard since Mos Def’s “Mathematics”.
7. Brazilian Summer (Prod. by Soul Chef):
What would a classic album be without a sample from Pootie Tang? Luck takes off his conscious rapper hat once again as he leads us through a flashback of his most recent summer in the form of a fiery Afro-Carribbean beat layered with fingerpick guitar chords, soft trumpets, and a steady drum kit. This track also offers a different perspective on Luck’s versatility as he uses his Panamanian roots and Muslim faith to give the album a well-rounded sound. This all sort of threw me back to J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights with his track “Back To The Topic” freestyle as Luck uses similar elements of synthesizing his cyclical rhyme & flow and the rock-steady instrumentals. I highly recommend all of you to add this to your summer playlists for long car rides, running around Grand Army Plaza, and day rooftop parties.
6. Time In A Day (Prod. Dekk):
And if you didn’t get it from the intro, “This is, The Curse of The Pharaoh!” Goosebumps running up and down the minimalist beat’s spine with supernatural vocals, the production undoubtedly resembles Luck’s definition of articulation. It’s a rarity to listen to a track with succinct and blaring beats, a catchy and simple hook, and dynamic loops, so I appreciated the sound. A track of optimism and elevation, Luck takes listeners through his consciousness and paints a hefty yet concise picture of intimate thoughts on controversial moments in world history, coontocracy in rap, positivity in struggle, fiscal irresponsibility, and gentrification in America. All common themes throughout the album, each verse holds a purpose and function outside of consonance lyricism. Well made and thoughtful, indeed.
5. Curse Of The Pharaoh (Prod. by Shenequa):
One of the most eerie intros I’ve heard in a while. Like a good thesis in an essay, this track adequately represents the sort of experience listeners should anticipate having for the rest of the album. The first 14 seconds of ghost-like vocals feels like walking barefoot around an empty home in the dark, filled with long hallways and vacant rooms, windows left adjacent seeping in moonlight on cold floors. Like spirits leaking through speakers, there exists a haunting and lingering dynamic that remains constant all throughout the album. The Middle-Eastern influence is utilized with an appropriation that holds a glittering quality, heavy with reverberating drums and sustenance bright with endless bursts of energy. Truly a proper introduction for a phenomenal record.
4. Back On My Rhymes ft. The Good Sin & DJ Sneakers (Prod. by Mike Mo):
Probably the most nostalgic sounding track on the album aside from “The Bridge Is Over”, this drum-and-bass, chipmunk sampling, DJ vinyl scratching track feels like the beginning of summer break, riding the J train, subway car covered in graffiti. Reminiscent of the vintage sound of Nas’ Illmatic, Luck takes us back to when hip-hop was strong and healthy, nurturing out classic after classic, keeping us hungry for its evolution into a legend for the decades to follow. Features from The Good Sin with his Jay Electronica-like flow and hypemanship from DJ Sneakers bring flare and diversity to Luck’s timeless hustling flow. Wish it was longer, but as promised, the track was articulate as ever.
3. Strange Fruit (Prod. by Samarei):
Once again, we’re thrown into a vortex of awe and mystery with this spooky track made of 4th dimension substance lit with Star Trek synths, walking drum and bass, and a single bombastic guitar. One of the shorter tracks on the album, though ironic, kicks us with another heavy message. Receiving backlash for speaking conscious in his music, Luck breaks it down for us in 2 minutes and 47 seconds in only 2 verses to discuss mountainous topics like the military-industrial complex, the failing American education system, the First Amendment, NSA, nonsensical debates around 1st world problems, and the problematic nature of digesting America’s bullshit as happiness and progress, or “strange fruit”. The shrewdness of Luck’s concise flow is unfathomable and almost terrifying. It takes skill and discipline to utter every syllable to transform the sonorous into the visual. Brilliant.
2. Pull Through ft. Nafisaria (Prod. by Dead Giveaway Beats):
Dead Givingaway might have been a ghost producer for the Fugees on The Scorein his past life. Similar to the sound of an unreleased track off What’s the 411?, Nafisaria’s singeing harmonies spoke a perfect accent to this classic track reminiscent of “Real Love”. Flow finer than Parisian wine, Luck takes us on a tour of a virtual war zone of our world’s most broken neighborhoods. Begging us to reconsider our Americanisms and apathetic attitudes naturalized by capitalist consumer culture, the revolutionary vocals of Luck juxtaposes rhyme and reason, outlining western imperialism with a sterling knife. The production is nothing short of flawless. Luck succeeds in sending his message across the world by shipping listeners into the future with sounds of our nostalgic past and messages of timeless nature and haunting us for an eternity. A song for the ages.
1. Hold On (Prod. by Dead Giveaway Beats):
Dead Giveaway does it again with this notorious track bold with deep bass, floaty instrumentals, crystal vocal samples, and easy toms and snare. One of the most personal tracks on the album, Luck transforms into Hanif for a moment as he begins with a dedication to Muhammad and his father. Passionate and ardent like the opening of Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, this track goes harder than any other on the album. As we go deeper into a forest of the rapper’s past of hurt, pain, recent loss of his grandfather, and addiction, we also learn of a present faith strong enough to allow him to continue onward and become the best version of Luck-One Conscious. The fiery loyalty to his lyricism and flow allows for listeners a chance to learn of the raw and naked truth of Hanif, which comprised of persistence, unyielding determinism, pain-turned-passion spirit, of depth, of wisdom, and an unbreakable bond with drive and devotion. Although “castles in the sand never stand, they hold on,” Luck’s hunger for success and prosperity makes for one of the most inspiring tracks on the indie wire right now that will serve as a template for hip-hop’s incoming freshmen coming up this year. Best track of the album, hands down. A sure anthem for a new era in neo-conscious rap.
For my exclusive interview with Luck-One Conscious, click here.