One of my favorite modern Hip Hop acts is the dynamic duo of AK and Issa Gold, the Brooklyn based act known as The Underachievers. I was drawn to them on their debut LP, Cellar Door, a spaced out collection of Trap influenced beats where the two exchanged fast spitting rhymes. Their followup Evermore was a tale of two halves that produced a handful of riveting, inspiring lyrics in the opening tracks. To my ears the pair have evolved in reverse lineage to current trends, their lyricism growing more depth in expression and the beats frequenting nineties vibes.
Renaissance continues on that path with a smokey, concurrent theme bordering on Jazz Hop as Soul and Jazz samples soaked in measures of reverb set a mellow, hazy, indulgent atmosphere for the beats to ride. The use of modern production styles holds an obvious mold between old and new, mostly a strength for the instrumentals. Every few tracks a darker, leaner numbers switches up the mood, the soulful sampling is dropped in favor of slicker synthesized instrumentals and the twos rhymes often shifting gears for gangster rap alike rhymes. It starts with "Crescendo" which has a line that made me chuckle, "I'm addicted to the green, yea that's a strictly veggie diet!".
This breaking of the flow doesn't indicate much overbearing meaning. The album opens with a quote, a powerful one from MLK about leadership and enslavement, the following tracks provide food for thought on the socially conscious, introspective narrative. The theme quickly dissipates as the tone and lyrical directions shift. The albums production is quite shaky and inconsistent too, varying volumes and mastering extends beyond beats to the volume of the duo's voices too. "Kiss The Sky" is massively compressed in comparison to what comes before it, their voices jump out over the speakers.
There's a lack of direction, or concept to tie things together here but the good moments do manage to jump out. The opening few songs are the track lists best but as the record draws on a few other moments stand out. "Gottham Nights" has a stand out moody pitch shift on the atmospheric sample. "Different Worlds" ties the Jazz Hop to the darker vibes and has beautifully gloomy sung vocal sample reminiscent of Chelsea Wolfe. Following it "Break The System" pairs a bombastic snare kick groove with a trippy spaced out synth sample drenched in echo effects.
The pair seem without guidance here. Good beats and rhymes prop the record up but as an overall experience its a mixed bag of tricks that loosely fit together. The opening theme fades swiftly and I also noticed they grouped the three stoner songs together in the midsection but they only server each other. Its not a disappointing record, there is plenty to enjoy but the bar has been set high and we know they are capable of putting something a lot better together than this.
Favorite Tracks: Eyes Wide Open, Crescendo, Different Worlds, Break The System