State Of The Artist play it nonchalant-like on their latest single, “Unfazed” (produced by Aaron The King). Catch SOTA opening for LA’s Dom Kennedy at the Showbox in the Market on April 14th.
Members Only; 2012
Of the three MCs in local crew State Of The Artist, it’s likely Thaddeus David (or Young TH as he’s known in assembly) is the only one capable of holding down an entire album’s worth of solo material. Parker is an adequate rhymer but his true gifts lay behind the boards and Hyphen8d’s butter soft register just isn’t commanding enough to stand alone despite a charming wit that supersedes both of his teammates. One of the best things about the SOTA boys is how well they share the mic, with each MC getting a turn to shine on virtually every track they do together. Thaddeus is clearly their #3 hitter: the most well-rounded, the most consistent and the most interesting. Maven is his recent outing for dolo, a 16-track LP that’s definitely nice on the ears, but suffers from a partial lack of focus that hinders the MC’s hunt for a more distinct individual rep.
It’s hard to criticize Maven when all of the separate elements of a high quality album are present. Start with Thad’s flow which is natural and well-practiced. He sounds great positing on subjects like street politics (“Block Business”), succeeding in the rap game (“By Any Means”), and old fashioned shit talk (“Aww Sheit”). Part of his appeal lies in his raspy vocal aesthetic, a natural gift that allows him to swagger without trying. You can’t teach or learn that quality — it just is. The other remarkable thing about Maven is the beat choice: every single one succeeds. Provided by local suppliers (Jester, Kuddie Fresh, DJ Semaj) and anonymous internet beat mavens, there isn’t a weak gazelle in the bunch and the diverse sonics range from the dreamy wobble of “Never Never” to the jazzy shake of “Crown Royal.”
But while Thad’s beat selection is beyond reproach, his strategy for hopping on them is suspect. At least half of the collection would only qualify as interludes. Many of them are devoid of hooks that just start to build momentum before trailing off, like “Skyscrapers” which generates a nostalgic, grainy lo-def 70’s movie feel but then quickly rides out. As it goes with most hip-hop records these days, somewhere among the overflow of half-thoughts is a superior and more focused EP dying to get out. It’s a lesson Thaddeus should have learned from the title of Maven’s opening cut, “Less is More.”
In 206UP.COM’s recent interview feature, “THE SIX”, Thad informs us that another solo project is likely on the way, this time a for-profit venture with all original production. Here’s hoping “distillation” is on the MC’s to-do list for that go ‘round. Dude’s Town rep is very strong based on past musical collaborations — SOTA and Helluvastate (with Cloud Nice honcho Tay Sean) — and he’s shown it can only get stronger. The approach just needs a little calibration.
From SOTA’s Altered State, available here.
Well, here we are. 2012. Another year, another chance for The Town to makes its indelible mark on hip-hop music country- and worldwide. I would argue 2011 saw the widest range of quality releases since I started paying extra close attention (circa 2005). Just like college basketball, parity seems to be Seattle rap’s strong suit. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to properly represent all the styles being fashioned inside (much less outside) of the area code.
But I resolve to try, dear readers, and the immediate future will present many opportunities for me to do so. Let’s start with last week’s drop from Thaddeus David (aka. Young TH of State Of The Artist). His upcoming solo mixtape, Maven, drops on 1.27.12. TH is by far the most talented of the three members of SOTA, his gravelly flow and diverse range of styles runs the anchor leg of the trio’s party-rap relay. We’re looking forward to seeing dude get out on a solo sprint with Maven. “By Any Means” is the ‘tape’s clarion call, featuring a subtle bubbling beat by LA-based Ski Team, hook by SOTA teammate Parker, and guest bars from Onry Ozzborn.
Slopes, the new 12-song album from State Of The Artist makes it pretty clear that the fellas Parker, Hy and Young TH sound their best when rhyming over tracks by longtime production partners, LA-based Ski Team. Just saying. Much of the material here reminds me of the brief but very Pacific Ocean fresh Hank Moody EP which SOTA dropped post Cali-relocation 2009.
Breezy, wistful party jams where you can practically feel the sting of the salty Pacific Coast air in your nostrils is the order of the day on Slopes. The easy good-life-affirming flows of Parker and Hy settle into a nice balance with tracks like “More Than Fine” where the aim is to please the speakers in your ride as well as the ears of the nearest squad of mini-dressed breezies. TH’s more rugged delivery is the necessary shot of bitter in SOTA/Ski’s otherwise smooth Old Fashioned.
Seattlecalifragilisticextrahelladopeness was SOTA being generously inclusive but trying to please too many people. On the electro-oriented Altered State, the crew strayed too far out of their lane. Slopes, on the other hand, finds the trio sounding exactly as they should.
Been a minute since we’ve heard from State Of The Artist. Courtesy the good folks at Members Only, stream and download SOTA’s latest single, “High In The Air” (featuring Sol). A smoothed-out love jam to cure your end of Summer blues.