Tuesday, February 24, 2015

After Hours - Otherwise Known Review

In light of my return from hiatus, I'm getting back into form with a review of Canadian hip hop duo Otherwise Known's new album, After Hours. I'm somewhat familiar with Otherwise Known, having reviewed a solo mixtape from one-half of the duo, Nova, titled Whatever It Takes awhile back. (Every time I read that title I get the DeGrassi theme song stuck in my head, I'm sorry for embracing Canadian stereotypes :-( ). You can find that review here. Speaking of that review, the homie SYpher tag-teams this review of After Hours as well. Let's get into it. (Note: Click the track names for a YouTube link, or click here to stream the full album.)

GM: Alright say go and I'll press play.
SY: Let's dooooo it. 
INTROSY: Nice moody piano to set off the intro.
GM: Got a little back and forth to go with it. I love tracks like this with the dark sound.
SY: Hehehehe
MG: Cut that off in a hurry though.
SY: I liked the moody piano and back-and-forth bars, but I love the bait-and-switch approach even more. Just when you thought this was another sob story about how hip hop is dead, these guys flipped the script in a hilarious way.
iCANDY (feat. Danitto Kruz and Sass D)SY: And we're going straight to the club. That was a funny way to start it off.
GM: I like this one alright so far. I remember the commercial tracks on their last tape were weak points to me but this one works.
SY: I'm not sure if I can get into this hook, but I like the back and forth in the verses.GM: Right. the hook isn't it's strong point but it's not horrible.
SUPER FIENDSY: Okay now I'm at that skit at the start of Super Fiend. Actually Super Fiend itself is kind of a skit, these guys are rolling the car, drankin' and driving.
FUCK THE FIVE-O (feat. Ill Qaeda)
SY: So they just got pulled over by the cops in the skit, and now this is the "fuck the police" type of song.
GM: Who's rapping at the start of this?
SY: This is Danny Knight. I remember you liked his deep voice on the mixtape.
GM: I remember liking him a lot on the last tape. Hasn't changed. This dude rapping now has bars though.
SY: These two guys are a group called Ill Qaeda, I'm not sure what their individual names are.
GM: They're actually both pretty damn nice.
SY: Nova's verse is dope, I like the back and forth with Clockwork (note: a producer playing the cop character) and the chant at the end.
GM: Yeah everyone ripped that track. Very dope.

SY: Another skit where the guys struggle to light their weed up. This is straight comedy, haha.
GM: This is a lot of skits for a 12-track tape. They're short though, which is good.

SY: So they found their lighter, now they lighting up.
GM: Yeah this is very clearly the smoke-out song.
SY: I like the flow Danny got going here.
GM: This is way too laid back for me, but I understand why it's that way. Just a little too chill for me. I do like the beat on its own.
SY: It's a good balance, Danny had the melodic thing going and Nova has the more speedy type of flow.
GM: Yeah on this track I prefer the Nova verse.
SY: And now there's another short skit here at the end of the track.

SY: So some of the crew went back to school, Nova's off on his own doing some other shit on this next track. Awww sheeeit he poppin' molly?
GM: I like this already.
SY: Dope beat, dope flow, I like the change in vocals too. This reminds me of some old school Eminem.
GM: Yep a combination of Eminem subject matter and Hopsin-like vocal changes. The first song or two Danny stuck out the way he did on the last tape we checked, but the further we go into it the more Nova is shining.

SY: So when I talked to these guys, they said Danny's character dies in his verse, and then the next skit will be a "resurrection" before the album takes a more serious tone.
GM: Ah, gotcha. So he basically OD'ed.
SY: Yep.

SY: This right here is already much more serious than anything we've heard so far. Digging the Nas sample in the hook. Nice and simple.
GM: Yep. The production is nice on this tape.
SY: Yea, just as you mention that they let this beat breathe a bit before moving to the next track. Sounds like they're taking their second chance to cut out the reckless behavior from the previous songs and rapping about grinding, trying to make ends meet.

GM: This beat is the right kind of chill. I can vibe to this without having to be high, haha. Any idea who produced this track?
SY: I think both of them worked on it, Danny and Nova, and also probably some work from Clockwork.
GM: The whole tape has a bit of a dark vibe. I'm liking this track. Rapid-fire back-and-forth always appeals to me. Hook doesn't really appeal to me as much.
SY: Yea, and I think they do a better job harmonizing on this track, compared to their other songs.
THE CRYSTAL FIST PT. 1SY: Oh I haven't heard this track when I got the preview last week. What the hell is this skit? Haha
GM: This makes me think of the "Bad Dreams" skit from Genesis by Busta Rhymes. The rapping there made think of Twiztid. Kind of on a dark, horrorcore type thing.
SY: So this took almost 3 mins before it got to the music. That's a strange way to arrange it, with a 3-min skit then a little rap, then more skit then more rap. I'll have to play it again to really follow the story.
GM: Yeah that was pretty unique. I dug the rapping parts.
SY: The song gets better the more you immerse yourself in the story, as Danny and Nova go back-and-forth again, rapping in a tone as if they're telling a scary story around a campfire.

SY: But for now we're on "After Ours", the final track.
GM: I'm liking this a bit more than Whatever It Takes. Less commercial-sounding and has more of a clear direction.
SY: Yea and it has a bit of a continuous narrative throughout the album. Just like the mixtape, my favourite hook comes at the end. The sound of rain returns from the intro, and we get that vibe they teased from the intro back.

GM: On Whatever It Takes I was really drawn to Danny Knight's rapping, and that happened on "iCandy" and "After Hours" again. But the rest of it, I feel like Nova shines. I think that Ill Qaeda group stole their track they were on. Overall, it's a much more cohesive listen than Whatever It Takes was, I dig the darker sound a lot. Only skip track for me (skits aside) would be "Light Up", just a bit too smoked out and relaxed for me to enjoy sober. Production is a step up on this one too.
SY: Nova gave us a taste last year with his solo mixtape, but Otherwise Known is able to step things up and make an even better, more cohesive project.  Their original production is dope all around, in every different vibe they touch on.  The album is real diverse to start, teasing the serious tone we later get at the end of the album but completely flipping the script and leading with a club track.  Even if you’re not into the clubbing or the drug-related tracks, their sense of humour on the skits and raw spitting on “Fuck The Five-O” should keep you drawn in until the more serious second half of the album. My only real issue is “The Crystal Fist Pt. 1” sounding out of place on the album. I thought it might have been a better fit as a bonus track, but it was still dope nonetheless. I also wasn’t really vibing with “iCandy”, but I understand they’re trying to show versatility by including at least one club song. Other than that, this is a solid listen that’s almost perfectly compacted into 35 minutes of diverse Hip-Hop.
A worthwhile outing from some talented up-and-comers. A bit too packed with skits, but cohesive and sticks to a tight narrative. The MCs provide great rhymes and flows with competent production provided by Otherwise Known themselves and Clockwork. My previous exposure to them was Nova's solo outing Whatever It Takes, and the distinction between mixtape and album is clear between the two projects, as After Hours is much more conceptual and solidly produced. Definitely a strong introduction to Otherwise Known if this is your first time hearing them.

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