“Halfway” is a bleak album. Within, Uncommon Nasa frequently explores the idea that his life is effectively “halfway” over now that he’s entered his middle age years, and generally his outlook on mortality, and the world itself on this album, is pretty grim. On “Why I Stopped Watching the News,” Uncommon explains exactly that, saying that “poisoned information is worse than poisoned food.” On “Love the Cold Like a Brother,” he begins by saying that he’s “Never been a best man, never been a godfather.” These lyrics are definitely dark, but Uncommon is a generally skilled lyricist, so throughout the record you’re being given things to ponder. However, is the music any good? No.
I really liked Uncommon Nasa’s last album, 2014’s “New York Telephone.” It was a pretty unique mix of hardcore East Coast hip-hop sensibilities, merged with off-beat production in the vein of EL-P, and a jagged flow in the vein of Billy Woods. Certainly, these characteristics are mostly here on “Halfway,” but there’s just something missing. For one, the beats handled by Black-Tokyo are not cutting it. Most of them aren’t horrible, but often times they are nothing to write home about, and are also often too clunky for their own good. Uncommon is more low-key here, so these messy drum patterns, that would work with a more lively performance, seem out of place. But one beat here is pretty horrible, and that is “We Living In These Dark Times.” It contains a sample of King Crimson’s classic “Epitaph,” and the sample is so sloppily cut up that it doesn’t remain on beat, so it’s just sounds like an absolute mess, and it really distracts from Uncommon’s impassioned lyrics about police brutality. In general, leave the King Crimson sampling to Ye.
Unfortunately, “Halfway” is a pretty underwhelming album. It is ultimately weighed down by some pretty shoddy beat-work, and while Uncommon is a good MC, he simply isn’t enough to save this record.
Standout Tracks: “Why I Stopped Watching the News”
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