Album: The Professionals
Artists: The Professionals (Madlib & Oh No)
Genre: Hip Hop
Sub-Genres: Abstract / Alternative / Underground Hip Hop
Label: Madlib Invazion
Non-Airable Tracks: All of them.
Sounds Like: Whatever Madlib feels like sampling, the early 2000s.
Madlib’s latest album, a collaboration with his brother Oh No and the duo’s first full-length project as ‘The Professionals’, was released under Madlib Invazion last month. The project hits listeners from a variety of different angles, both in sample choice and lyrical content. Some of the best moments on this project occur in the earlier half, such as the intro track “My House”, which kicks off with a horn sample not unlike the one used at the beginning of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Immediately after the listener is welcomed to the show, they find themselves in the presence of a very unwelcoming host who offers food and takes the plate back “just to fuck with you” as an eerie soundtrack plays. This is just one example of the many obscure skits found throughout the album as a result of Madlib’s outstanding talent in finding incredible samples, a talent that shines even brighter through his beats. Pair that with his genius chopping of the samples and you get songs like “Give N Take”, a groovy sex anthem and sonic collage of sorts. Another strength of this track and throughout the album is Oh No’s way with imagery. ‘The Professionals’ is actually my first exposure to the rapper, and from this project alone I can say that he is a skillful lyricist, but an underwhelming performer.
Oh No’s main shortcoming is his lack in a distinct vocal disposition, leading to him being outshined by features on tracks such as “Superhumans”, which features an eccentric, rapid-fire verse from New Jersey rapper Chino XL. The superpower-themed, tongue-twisting lyrical stunt show of “Superhumans” is probably the project’s high point, as the initial momentum of the album seems to run consistently lower past this point. While the Professionals’ ability to work in different styles is admirable, little on the remainder of the album stands out as extraordinary rap music, perhaps with the exception of “Away Too Long”, another song featuring disorienting (in a good way) collage-like sampling. Although many pieces of the album are skillfully crafted by both MC and producer, other parts weigh down the album’s overall sum of quality. Songs like “I Jus Wanna” and “Make Due” sound like outdated throwaway pop rap cuts. The mix is often poorly balanced. Besides the live show theme implied by the opening and closing skits, the project lacks any strong focus. On the slip side, this lack of focus results in a fascinating range of themes, from the pursuit of money (“Payday” and “Timeless Treasure”) to the lives of ex-military thugs (“Dishonored Valor”). Overall, I’d say listening to the album is worth the unique experience for any hip hop fan, most of whom should find their personal favorites within the sea of ideas offered throughout “The Professionals”.
Recommended Tracks: Payday, Give N Take, Superhumans
Reviewer’s Name: Mitchell Ross
Date of Review: February 19, 2020