Everybody knows that I'm a Galapagos4 rider. The Chicago-born label is one of the greatest things to happen to the Windy City Hip-Hop scene. When label honcho Jeff Kuglich announced that he was moving out west, I was a little dismayed. G4 was a Chicago thing, and I worried that the move would cause the label to lose its spiritual center. Turns out, G4 is as Chicago as ever, and the west coast shift has a brought a good amount of new, refreshing talent to the fold. This phenomenon is most evident in this new album from Mestizo, the G4 mainstay who's lived both in Chicago and the Bay Area. Recently, he moved back to California, and this is album is a sort of tribute to his home. Appropriately, he tapped the talents of San Francisco production duo Sean Julian and DJ Morse Code (known collectively as Julian Code) to provide all the music for Dream State. Julian is a beatmaker and record collector who had a hand in the now-legendary Trap Door Psyche-Rock mix. Morse Code is a well-loved club DJ veteran with a resume that includes gigs with DJ AM, The Rub, A-Trak, and a host of others.
I always thought of Mestizo as sort of a straight man, especially when guesting next to guys like Qwel or Robust. His no-frills flows and earnest demeanor don't make him the most dynamic MC on the block, but as Dream State demonstrates, he always delivers the goods. He explodes off the line on the album-opening "Coast Guard," aggressively shouting out his label, his home state, and a who's who of Cali Hip-Hop artists in less than two minutes. Whether painting evocative pictures of his eventful childhood on the languid "Live" or lying back on the playful "Disclaimer," he consistently nails it. He even manages to breathe new life into the obligatory and trite "rap about how wack work is" on the excellent "Time Card." The melancholy, emotional "Rosie" is a highlight, as is the smoked-out, Pharcyde-meets-Boot Camp Clik head-trip "Pretty Boy Zoid." I have to compliment his choice in guest MC's too. Chicago gets a little love in the form of Qwel's typically dope verse on "Tolerance," but it's mostly a west coast affair. Joe Dubbs and 2Mex shine on "Back Wash," while Isiah and the mighty MURS devastate on the album's crown jewel, "Even." Julian and Morse Code cut apart a rare soul vocal and let 'Stizo and crew add words to create new lines. It's one of the most tightly-composed Hip-Hop cuts I've heard in a while, one where MC and producer both contribute equally to the track's brilliance.
Speaking of producers, Julian Code straight kill it. Where the usual G4 suspects Maker, Meaty Ogre, Mike Gao, and even Dr. Jones excel in dense, layered beat science, Julian and Morse Code go for a bit of throwback flavor here, looping and chopping fresh Jazz and Soul samples that open up enough space to Mestizo to flex. They back him up lovely on "Coast Guard," bringing an ill psychedelic organ bit that the Beatnuts wish they found. They follow that up with the warm Jazz-guitar groover "Solid Gold." Other notables include the drama Soul of the aforementioned "Tolerance" and the lumbering, verbed-out drums of "Live." The beatmakers also get loose on two fine instrumental efforts, both of which nod heavily to the late Jay Dee with their fusion of off-kilter keyboard sounds and cleverly-chopped samples. "Beat Flip" is especially sick, thanks in part to Morse Code's tight scratches.
Dream State may be California to the core, but the sound is universal. Solid rhymes, heavy beats, and enough hometown pride to make anyone feel good about repping their hood.
- DJ Verb
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