To say the Step Brothers have been a long time coming would be a gross understatement, at least by music industry standards. Rapper/producers Alchemist and Evidence have been tight since high school, and initially announced their formation as the Step Brothers back in 2008. Over five full years later, the duo have delivered their first album in Lord Steppington—an album with plenty of expectant qualities, but lacking in polish—shocking, considering the recording time taken. It’s not that taking time with a project and perfecting it before release is wrong—in fact, more of that behavior should be encouraged in an increasingly ADD hip-hop climate. Lord Steppington, however, doesn’t feel as concentrated as an album between Alchemist and Evidence should be.
Lord Steppington features a remarkable sonic array of gritty beats, marauding sounds, and hollow samples. The likes of “Step Masters” and “Legendary Mesh” put Alchemist’s production style on full-display—full of mind-melting bass, hard snares, and crawling riffs that can only be described as possible anthems for shroom-impaired mole people. It’s balanced by dips into the fuller, richer production that the duo is capable of, as heard on “Swimteam Rastas,” and the somber, yet soulful stand-out “See The Rich Man Play.” Yet on the whole, samples with any uplifting or powerful melodies are declined for grimier sounds used to accentuate the duo’s raps.
The album holds a cypher feel throughout, which speaks to their free-flowing, but not overly focused recording process. Back in September, Evidence told Fuse that, “We just hung out and recorded and did wild shit, and looked at the laptop one day and said, ‘Oh, there’s 20 songs.’ We bottled it up and made it interesting and that’s what you get.” Instead of trading lines, Alchemist and Evidence trade whole verses, stringing together songs with intro and outro audio from various YouTube clips (the “wild shit” Evidence described must’ve been a 24-hour video sharing binge), ranging from Kanye West rants to an interview with child painting prodigy.
While Alchemist’s flows are often looser, giving him a distinct swashbuckling aura, Evidence is more restrained. Evidence comes off as too controlled and not explorative enough—not substance, but in sound, lacking charisma and power, especially when stacked up against Alchemist. Evidence’s static voice can stifle the production, but he uses his cadences well to give purpose to his sharp lyrics.
Their subject matter and tone match the vibes of edgy and tough beats, but on the Styles P assisted “No Hesitation,” Styles comes with a playful flow, injecting air into a beat that had already felt compacted by Evidence and Alchemist’s dense rhymes. While they pack as many syllables in as possible, Styles P let his raps hang in the air, but still maintains a yo-yo like flow. He had the largest impact on the song with the least to say, which speaks to the confidence in his delivery. Action Bronson’s highly detailed and grotesque, but hilarious metaphors on “Mums In the Garage” only strengthen prevailing Ghostface Killah comparisons.
Lord Steppington has it’s fair share of bright moments and even stronger swaths of production. Alchemist shines through as a complete and chronically underrated MC, while Evidence continues on with his fantastic lyricism. Their styles mesh well and hold up across Lord Steppington, as they’re never short of wordplay or vivid imagery. Yet for all of their work, Lord Steppington as a whole can’t escape the individualism of each track, with various YouTube clip intros and outros only slopingly serving to hint at a sense of cohesion. The Step Brothers have made it clear that they can produce excellent hip-hop together, but the next step is translating that ability across an entire album in a concentrated form. For now, Lord Steppington will certainly do.—Justin Block