Sunday, March 25, 2012

This New Wiley Album is Totally Worth It!!!

He'd rather be working.

Select sentences from my PopMatters review of Wiley's Evolve or be Extinct:

Now he’s back with the double album Evolve or be Extinct, basically a tribute to his workaholism.

After the so-so introduction “Welcome to Zion”, Evolve slams into your brain with its title song, a boxing match between track and rapper. Wiley’s track mainly consists of a double-time riff repeated over and over, while his flow is a hyperactive syncopated wonder that darts in and out of the spaces in the production, elaborating and playing off its rhythmic possibilities. A hypeman declares, “If you’re not spittin’ this way on the 140 bpm, you are not evolving, rudeboy,” and you don’t doubt him.

The beat for “Link Up”, by name-to-remember Nana Rogues, is mostly implied, with a huge snare on the fours, a shaker and chime twinkling unpredictably, and a bass vroom that swells and throbs the rhythms of seduction. 

Also great is Most Wanted Mega’s mega electro racecar roar “Boom Blast”, which makes Wiley’s heart stutter like “voodoodoodoo dadadada voodoodoodoo POW!” At several points during the song, he touches the ceiling.

As a varied production showcase, Evolve impresses like DJ Quik’s The Book of David and Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives.

In the sparse meditation “This is Just an Album”, Wiley reveals that he maintains his breakneck schedule to connect with the public and provide for his family. But his big dance song, “I’m Skanking”, is all about dancing alone. The atonal loner anthem “Weirdo” asserts “You ain’t in the same planet as me / They ain’t in the same planet as me”. And in “No Love Lost”, Wiley acknowledges that he’s lost touch with many homies: “We started together / Now we move solo,” an appropriate motto for a guy who apparently vacations in Barbados by himself. Blame his fans, who double as his enablers: “People ask me every day, ‘Wiley, what you workin’ on?’” No wonder he wants to see what the sea’s like.

Still, this guy’s so good at his job, it’s hard to imagine him lazing on a beach somewhere, with or without Rihanna. Evolve or be Extinct succeeds as both a collection of songs for public use—dancing, drinking, celebrating Christmas, protesting customs officials—and as a complex portrait of the artist who’s sacrificed his sleep and sanity to create them.

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