by Thomas Bedward February 05, 2021
An emcee and icon with over three decades in the music industry, Mr P Chill has been responsible for some of the most impressive and important hip-hop anthems of the independent scene since the ‘90s. Since the release of his former group’s first single in ’92, Chill has remained devoted to his craft, pushing his style, talents, and artistic abilities to the very limit.
A true veteran of the indie-rap scene, Chill started work on ‘L.I.F.E. – Living in Fragile Environments’, in 2019 as a way to process his grief and the tragic loss of Mother. A truly personal affair, the album was initially going to be an anthology of personal stories and uplifting sentiments designed to help people who might be dealing with their own sorrows, but as 2019 came to a close, Chill knew that the album was shifting to become something more. Starting fresh, the content started to focus on current events and by early 2020, with the unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and so many social issues in his home country of the US, the songs began to reflect the wider world around him instead of what was going on inside of him.
His fourteenth studio album since going solo in 2001, ‘L.I.F.E. - Living in Fragile Environments’ sees Chill returning to his roots, handling all of the production and beats himself to create a singular vision. In keeping with this theme, the album has just two songs that feature guest vocals, the first of which, ‘Social Distancing’, has Chill collaborating with hip-hop legend Cee Knowledge (AKA Doodlebug of the Digable Planets) and the other, ‘Subliminal’ has him on verse two, sandwiched between J. Smo and AlphiyOda1.
Released last week on the 29th of January 2021 on the MPC Recording Company label, ‘L.I.F.E.’ sees Chill taking on the world with his classic sound and unshakable passion for pure, unadulterated rap. Opening with a lavish maelstrom of strings, quick-fire beats, and tight-knit brass that washes over a heavy blues vibe, ‘The Circus’ kicks things off in spectacular fashion. A sharp reflection of the stress, strain, and struggles that Chill has faced throughout his career, it sets a perfect evocative tone that Chill holds firm to for the rest of the record. In second cut ‘Home’, Chill raps about getting some much-needed rest and relaxation, buoying his worldly wisdom a steady flow of sharp beats and engaging sounds. As the album expands, tracks like ‘Searching’ see Chill continuing to impress through waves of hypnotic beats and bold, almost kaleidoscopic vibes that flow against a constant stream of impressive lyrics to create one of the most affecting moments of the entire album.
In ‘Freedom’, Chill takes a more political stance, pushing his sound into more cinematic and poignant territories, seamlessly blending his sound with some gorgeous female vocals and two driven narratives cut straight from the heart of modern America. The dark shadow of the US is a topic that Chill tackles with unapologetic ease, and in tracks like ‘Morning Coffee’, ‘Social Distancing’, and ‘Where Do We Go?’, he points at fingers at the social ills that have come to the surface during the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump administration. A fine balancing act between sharp words, evocative beats, and a truly undeniable style. The highlights keep thanks to tracks like ‘Social Distancing’, which emerges from a deft stream of news snippets and bring about that highly anticipated feature from Cee Knowledge, and the politically charged ‘Millions of Militants’ that features the one and only Mike Colossal.
It’s a wild ride, but even as the final two tracks arrive, Chill makes sure to keep a few surprises on hand, lashes out with the twin sounds of ‘Subliminal’ and ‘Reflections’. Rhythmic and semi-nostalgic, ‘Subliminal’ brings into the fold a medley of horns, reggae beats, and vintage scratches that will impress even the pickiest rap fans, while ‘Subliminal’ brings about that chaotic pairing of J. Smo and AlphiyOda1. It’s a smooth, but thought-provoking finish that perfectly caps off the album, ensuring that every listener will walk away from the album with an undeniable sense of satisfaction.
It’s hard to imagine a more pertinent, important or expansive record than ‘L.I.F.E.’, and in truth, it’s impossible to touch on every flourish, theme, and triumph that Chill has packed into the piece, but what we can say with absolute certainty, is that it’s simply phenomenal. Whether you’re a die-hard hip-hop fan or just a casual listener, ‘L.I.F.E.’ is an album that absolutely has to be experienced.
You can stream the new record in full on all major platforms and be sure to check out Mr P Chill’s Bandcamp page where you can order ‘L.I.F.E’ on vinyl, CD, or as a digital download.
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