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Here's how hip hop critique works these days. New 'product' gets rolled out on Datpiff or HotNewHipHop. If it's any good, or if it's by an artist who isn't regularly picking up tens of millions of youtube views or regularly instagrams/tweets images of his/her wealth, then it will be ignored by most, pick up some cursory ratings of about 7/10 by site-visitors and then disappear into obscurity. There will be five comments under it, usually bemoaning the fact it's being ignored. Meanwhile some twat called Kevin or called Lil or called Yung or called Nipsey or named after a brand will be picking up millions of listens/hits thanks to some shady sponsorship dealio or the fact that last week he happened to fart near a mic and Drake happened to smell it. The comments underneath  this dross will vacillate between about 90% 'STR8 FUEGO' and 10% 'WTF IS THIS TRASH'.

Personally it's difficult to give a fuck. Hip hop doesn't belong to those sites anymore than it belongs to anyone, even if they're great for a lazy lope around the state-of-the-art. Hip hop if you slip the mental leash currently insisting that only commerce equates to 'success' and  that only such a narrow definition of 'success' matters to anyone, belongs equally to producers like psyche-meister Oh No,  and rappers like the singular Tristate from Durag Dynasty. You might remember DD's album with Alchemist from 2013 (the superb 360 Waves - if you don't know, get to know) - all you need to know is that 3 Dimensional Prescriptions features perhaps DD's most absorbing lyricist hooking up with Cali beat-meister Oh No and the results are so good you don't even notice Alchemists' absence from proceedings (oh I know he can't produce EVERYTHING but dammit I wish he could sometimes). It's a stunningly realised triumph and one of thee hip hop albums of 2017 thus far.

[BTW - another feature of hip hop critique at the moment - talk of 'features' i.e cameos as if buying an album is all about seeing what Van Den Plas-like extras you get - here you get rhymes not just from Tristate but also from Hus Kingpin, Westside Gunn, Gangrene, Evidence and former DD brother Planet Asia and EVERYONE is on fire and crucially the cohesion remains, each cameo actually serving a purpose rather than serving ego(s), something so often lost with the dizzying array of collaborators all hip hop albums seemingly have to carry these days.]

'Showroom Floor' serves as a neat introduction to the soundworld here - both gritty AND lush, gnarly and glittering, this is perhaps the finest suite of beats and loops Oh No has ever laced together. Though the lyrics talk about it being 'strictly for the vintage connoisseurs/straight off the showroom floor' I'd argue that as RTJ have proved this kind of beautifully appointed carnage is actually more like the sound of right fkn now than trap's already-dated dwindlings. Some hilarious snatched dialogue from an overheard coffee-shop conversation ("You know what it is? - you're upset cos you have a bullshit-assed job and you're LATE to your bullshit-assed job ./. . you can't buy a car cos you've got a bullshit-assed job") eases us into the hair-trigger tension of 'Custom' - killer-cams from Hus Kingpin, Westside Gunn and Lyric Jones piling into the dubbed-out oddity and needling guitar-riffage to seal the deal

'Networth' and 'G.T.D' mellow the vibe but keep the minutiae exquisite, Xiomara's cooing vox on the latter absolutely ravishing, the track caressing you like a summer breeze and leaving so soon you're left craving more. '6 Sun Raise Son' is another posse cut wherein Casual, Brotha J & Bro AA Rasheed ride a stern peal of drone-funk akin to RZA's darkest work on 'Forever'. Oh No's attention to detail is crucial on tracks like this - where so many producers would just let the vocal lead, he intertwines just the right changes here and there, a little reverb on that snare, a little echo on those keys to make tracks have a flow that amplifies and accentuates the changing cadences of the rappers involved. 'Wind Chime Wizardry' is damn near hollowed out, just a rather bewitching chime-melody under which beats both old-and-nu-skool boom, rumble and twinkle, Planet Asia's verbals paramount before some truly unhinged Strange-U-style (regular readers will know praise comes no higher) funk buzzes you through to the coda. 'Imhotep' sashays and swings like the finest swishiest moments from Curren$y's 'Carrollton Heist', 'Movie Script' has perhaps the best cameo of the whole set (a stunning slice of femme-aggravation from Rogue Venom - check out her own startling 'Death To The Fake Shit EP' here ) and 'Tears On My Nautica' sees long-time Tristate collaborator Washeyi Choir drop a scintillating verse into a swirl of rhodes-laden abstraction (he also pops up later on the fantastic 'Latest Drug'). 'Spaceship' puts afro-futurist paranoiac fantasy atop an unplaceably addictive slice of krautrock boombap before 'Write Wrongs' ('fuck rap I need progression/might even sing like One Direction') plunges Gangrene into the kind of lush widescreen soundscape Quincy Jones used to make - the edges and textures spinning out into the infinite, one of ON's most stunning productions yet.

As an album '3 Dimensional Prescriptions' doesn't suffer from its conceptual fuzziness (there's a loose theme here about 3-d printing, drugs and the general approach of armageddon), rather it's a messy album in the best sense, never limiting itself or stopping itself spraying out in whatever musical or lyrical direction it's pulled in by its protaganists. And where cameos can so often render albums anonymous, here they sharpen and define its characterisation, leave you with the impression that Tri's compadres are a dazzlingly diverse array of all that's best about underground hip hop from the US right now. An essential album not just because of that snapshot it gives but because sonically, it's perhaps the most moreish huff of smokey delight you've inhaled since Havoc's 'Silent Partner'. Get down on it. I went on today to see if the stream for this had picked up any more likes. It hasn't. Good.
Too good for Twitter.

(Neil Kulkarni)


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