Like their name, Gensu Dean & Planet Asia’s collaborative work Abrasions hooks you with a subdued immediacy. Kind of like “not having a dollar to feed [a] family” does. A Dean and Asia collab doesn’t garner the red carpet treatment of a Ye-Hova partnership, but there’s enough talent and reputation here to cause more than just a bump in Internet traffic. Armed with Asia’s trademark DNA-deep lyrics and Gensu’s handy SP-1200, even Chuck Berry will have to take notice.
The first track “Abrasions Intro” starts off as some distorted gurgle of sampled wails, almost as if Gensu were waking his SP-1200 from a deep sleep. Considering his output though―having worked with Count Bass D, Brand Nubian, Roc Marciano along the way―it’s more likely that Dean isn’t waking up his weapon of choice as much as he’s amplifying its powers. They aren’t more evident than on the track “Chuck Berry,” starring the Hollywood-monikered Shawn Pen, which is a strutting, piano-driven manifesto that conjures the freewheeling spirit of the rock and roll legend it’s named after. Layered with what sound like snippets of laser guns, the track is an example of what Gensu Dean does best: blend the old with the new.
But for all of the inspired turns―the flute-accented “Time To Get Dough” is as original a track as one heard in years―there are plenty of less than interesting roadblocks. When listening to Abrasions you get the sense that Gensu Dean & Planet Asia operate on a level that most makers of hip-hop never reach―they know exactly what they’re doing. But too many times throughout the album’s entirety that advantage becomes a handicap, as their assuredness feel derivative. More than a few tracks on Abrasions―*cough* “Chichi, Get The Yayo” and “Tough”―sound like a copy-and-paste rendition of what belong on the playlist of a backpack groupie.
Planet Asia mostly keeps his form throughout, dropping gemstones (“Goofy-ass rappers get bodied here/ with no wisdom, making bad decisions out of fear/ that’s the wrong food/ you’re rocking cleats on the basketball court/ you’re in the game with the wrong shoes,” on “Dignity”), and improves shaky numbers (“The upper echelon/ Fresno, Cali., Central Valley that’s Lebanon/ this is music for the marijuan’/ meditation, I take the mind on a marathon,” on “Do What I Want”). But there’s plenty of times, like on the BDP-inspired “Aura,” that you wish he’d received better backing.
That’s not to say that Gensu Dean is not a noteworthy producer, quite the opposite. When operating on all cylinders, as on “Faces On The Dollar” and “Listen,” which is one of the most aggressively direct calls for an end to violence ever recorded, him and Asia make music that could define an era. If Abrasions were 13 tracks and not 17, we might be saying the same thing about it. –Bogar Alonso (@blacktiles)