A Pipe Dream and A Promise [Review]

So the other day I'm listening to Gucci Mane and find myself smack-dab in the middle of one of those sublime moments of 'hip-hop is dead' aporia. Sure, Weezy gets me off when the syrrupy flow's right, Pitbul can spit fire 'cross a good latin riddim and there's no sub for Killa Cam in your subs. But where's that real, intelligent songwriting that got me into all this? Where the artists at? I'll spare you the restyou've heard it all before anyway. The difference is that I'm not trynna be cynical. I know the good stuff's there, we just gotta look:

A Pipe Dream and A Promise

Detroit by way of Atlanta. Just let that soak in; think about what that fusion might sound like. Eminem, Black Milk, Dilla. Outkast, Luda, Jeezy. Finale straddles both these monumental legacies, melding soulful samples, forward-looking production and fierce lyricism. And yet he manages to stand outside them. He's a self-conscious MC, bringing a new brand of hip hop to the world.

An all-star cast of beat-makers bless the album, most providing a gritty blend of street riffs and synth leads. Finale's alternately smooth and gravely vocals cut through the mix, and holy isht can this dude flow. First, technique. Finale has conversations with his beats. Lively staccato pops to the kick on 'Jumper Cables' while elegantly drawn out phrases grace 'Pay Attention.' The 'Heat' sample is muddled in vinyl static so Finale raps in a hoarse, throaty style, heavily stressing those 'ahhh' and 'haaah' sounds. The gently swooning synth lines on 'Issues' inspire Finale to spew liquid flow, swimming through gently rounded syllables and loose loopy vowels.

The man is a wordsmitha true engineer with the pen. It's clear each line has been painstakingly whittled down to a state of technical perfection. You'll find no awkward gaps between syllables, no lazy or drawn-out phrasing, no forced rhymes or rhythms. Like Lauryn Hill or Q-Tip before him, Finale extends the jazz tradition with vocal 'solos' that engage with instruments around him.

If you want radio rap without its nihilism; If want backpack rap without pretension; Street rap without ignorance; hipster rap without hipsters; Well then, you need A Pipe Dream and A Promise. It's unlikely we'll see more from Finale soon, this having been a 5-year labor of love. But who cares? This can easily last me another 5.

A Pipe Dream and A Promise was released in 2009 on Interdependent Media.

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