Album Review: Guilty Simpson and Small Professor Highway Robbery

Guilty Simpson and Small Professor

Highway Robbery

Coalmine Records

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Track Listing

  1. Take Your Power (Intro)
  2. Get That Pay (Scooby Mix)
  3. I’m the City feat. Boldy James and Statik Selektah
  4. Blap (Interlude)
  5. It’s Nuthin’ feat. A.G.
  6. On the Run feat. DJ Revolution
  7. Go feat. Elucid and Castle
  8. Come Get Me (Outro)
  9. Get That Pay (OG Mix)
  10. The Easiest Way (Remix)

 

Renowned in his native Detroit, and in underground hip-hop circles, Guilty Simpson may arguably be one of the larger, contemporary hip-hop scene’s under-appreciated and yet remarkably consistent emcees. Early in his career, Simpson quickly became a favorite of the beloved producer J. Dilla and his debut effort, Ode to the Ghetto features production from Dilla as well as other frequent collaborators Madlib and Black Milk. Along with Black Milk, Simpson has collaborated with the likes of Sean Price as a member of hip-hop trio Random Axe; production team Quakers on their self-titled Stones Throw Records debut; and he’s been affiliated with Detroit-based hip-hop collective Almighty Dreadnaughtz. Certainly, from his resume alone there’s a sense that Simpson has paid his dues as an artist. 

  Last year, the folks at Okayplayer called Philadelphia’s Small Professor “one of the most phenomenal producers (still) not known to most” in a glowing review of his The Gigantic Vol. 1. Interestingly, that album served as the first time both Simpson and Small Professor collaborated on anything together. But it’s their most recent collaboration Highway Robbery released last month through Coalmine Records which is not only arguably one of the best hip-hop albums released this year, but the album that brings two supremely talented artists out into the national stage.

   Unlike most contemporary, mainstream hip-hop albums where there are several different guest producers hired for particular tracks and tons of useless guest spots, Highway Robbery is an organic and consistent whole – coming from the fact that both producer and artist share the same dark vision.  The first single off the album, “On the Run” features the scratching of DJ Revolution and sonically it’s a cinematic track, perfect for a film noir portraying the life of a (possibly) innocent man on the run from the long arm of the law. But underneath, the track buzzes with a determined sense of menace. The third single off the album, “I’m the City” employs a haunting, organ-based sample and sparse beats that gives Simpson and Boldy James the space to tell tales of “the evil that men do,” as Kool G. Rap once said. Much like Kool G. Rap’s “Ill Street Blues,” the track creates a lingering, palpable sense of unease – the sort of unease that comes from men who have seen and done terrible things to get by. And the track features some some impressive scratching by master producer Statik Selektah towards the last minute or so of the song.   

   Throughout the album Guilty Simpson spins tales of the desperate things desperate men will do to survive in a crumbling, seemingly post apocalyptic Detroit. At the end of the day, it’s pure street shit – dope beats which emphasize a sense of paranoia and desperation, stories of crime and hustling by an emcee with an incredible gift for novelistic detail in his lyrics.