There’s no denying New York’s locus in hip-hop has found itself beneath a microscope in recent years. Hip-hop heads across the space remember the day the Internet folded when Kendrick Lamar spoke out on “Control,” and the subsequent influx of retorts from MCs who responded either on wax, socially or by some other medium, surged in. Nevertheless, New York City transplant Statik Selektah has been watching and on his latest effort, What Goes Around, released through Showoff Records/Duck Down Music, he delivers a fresh and enthusing offering for those willing to delve deeper than mainstream radio hits.
The album commences with “What Goes Around,” a fiery out-of-the-gate cut with trappings of New York rap coruscating from start to finish. Statik delivers on the thumping beat while Lil Fame and Ea$y Money match-up on the bars. The album’s first single “Carry On” is up next where Joey Bada$$ and Freddie Gibbs come together on wax for the first time over a saxophone-laced jazzy-esque beat. The cut screams boom-bap with its DJ Premier-inspired heavy scratching (a cornerstone in Statik’s producing manual). “Back For You” with Dilated Peoples and “Long Time” featuring Action Bronson also follows a similar suit with choppy scratching and drums forming the underpinning.
“The Imperial” featuring Action Bronson, Royce Da 5’9″ and Black Thought is the album’s best. All MCs come with it, yet it’s the latter who, akin to his efforts on “Bird’s Eye View” off Statik’s 2013 album Extended Play, steals the show, delivering a multitude of quotable lines. It’s the album’s most marketable mainstream offering and is smothered in replay value.
Three XXL freshmen of past and present, in the form of Ab-Soul, Jon Connor and Logic, come together on “Alarm Clock” to represent hip-hop’s progenies on a project that elsewhere features some of raps seasoned veterans. Soulo is up first, followed by Flint, Michigan’s Jon Connor, both cutting through the beat with their infectious cadence and dexterous bars. Logic rounds up the song providing resonating and emotive raps about his upbringing, “No father figure, my mother tried her best to be both/But let’s be honest a father really helps with your growth/But I was raised by Nas and Jay Z and Big L and Eminem/All of them set examples through their lyrics/Listen close so I could hear it, about life and how not to fear it,” he spits over mellow drums that make up a smooth production.
The final quarter of the album takes a more relaxing approach and flirts with a sense of nostalgia. “Get Away,” is a little more emotive with Joe Scudda and Colin Munroe going evocative and redolent over a piano and big drum-ridden beat. “God Knows” closes the album perfectly. Bun B and De La Soul’s Pos are reflective on the track, with the former following a similar blueprint to his efforts on “So Close So Far” off Statik’s 2010 project 100 Proof: The Hangover.
Although the stellar moments heavily outweigh the flaws, criticisms surrounding Statik’s latest effort ultimately lies in the project’s length. Like so many of its predecessors, What Goes Around is a generous offering weighing in at just shy of 70 minutes delegated over 20 tracks. Yet with over 30 guest appearances, it leaves listeners somewhat fatigued and slightly agitated, hopping from artist to artist.
Throughout his career, Statik Selektah has continually proved his ability to pair golden age production with the right lyricists. Although What Goes Around remains entrenched in its aesthetic, which will no doubt help quench demand for Statik’s core following, an array of contemporary features helps Statik gain some traction outside of the five boroughs as names like Ab-Soul, Action Bronson and Astro mingle with some of hip-hop’s finest. What makes this album so great is Statik’s ability to coagulate the old with the new. His trespassing on golden era terrain is consistently refreshing considering the distanced sound we are so accustomed to in 2014 and in the same month that saw Trinidad Jame$ dropped from Def Jam, Statik Selektah once again proves that the longevity of classic hip-hop never fades.—Henry Mansell