In our role as New York area hip hop journalists, one of our favorite missions is to bring to our e-pages those up-and-coming artists who are making a bit of noise in the underground circuit, who have a following and are simply creating good music. However, because of my clear bias toward presenting our region in the best hip hop light possible, I always fear the days when I have to review a body of work that simply is not up to par, and switch roles from avid supporter of those in the scene, to that of critic, and blast the efforts of a lackluster artist or poorly executed album.
Today is not one of those days.
If your first exposure to him is his debut album The Build, your first impression of Premonition will likely be taking note of his robust rap voice. By the time you get to the second and third impressions (that his flow is pretty agile, that he is very listenable), you will find yourself deep into the “Intro”, and, in my case, immediately pleased with the realization that perusing The Build won’t be a painful experience.
And it isn’t. Beats throughout are eclectically enjoyable, and despite multiple producers (Willie Green, KO Beatz, Spills and Premonition himself), there is an good marriage between variety and overall cohesion between tracks on the album which demonstrates that a thoughtful album construction process took place. To illustrate, The Build delivers three consecutive songs; eclectic, underground grime (“Prem”), a smoothed out lovey-dovey vibe (“Wait”) and a fun, bouncy track (“Fade”), each by a different producer, and through these 10:44, I felt no loss of synergy, nor did I feel the urge to fast-forward. Not a bad feat.
But wait! There’s more! An energetic, head-nodder, posse cut “Bum Rush” follows, featuring Sleepwalkas & DJ M-Tri, and yet another producer, finishing out this quadfecta. Nice.
Lyrically, Premonition is a solid lyricist, and clearly no dummy, dabbling in several topics with just the right a level of linguistic intellect: not too heavy, risking leaving listeners behind, and with enough smarts that allow subsequent listens to reveal more meaning. Good replay value for those who value lyrics.
In an interview with Adam Bernard, Premonition states, “I want people to know how serious I take this art form. I want them to know that there isn’t a second of my life that I take this culture for granted. It’s cliche to say, but it saved my life and I am beyond thankful to be a participant in it.” This solemn dedication to the craft is evident during The Build as nothing screamed “lackluster” or could be classified as a total throwaway.
Are there missteps? A couple. No train wrecks, but a couple of tracks failed to immediately or fully grasp attention. If this review was formatted utilizing our First Impressions system, where we review albums and mixtapes based solely on the first minute or so of the individual tracks, “Get Up” and “Tomorrow It’ll Change” might not have fared that well, but that’s more due to somewhat uninspiring arrangements. Not the end of the world by any means, and in fact, may only shine less bright due to the comparative luminosity of standouts like “The Writer’s Block,” “Nothing” and the aforementioned “Fade” and “Wait”.
There is a clear divide among the so-called “underground” in New York City hip hop. Thuggish street rap is still alive and well, as artists continue to aggressively document (or fabricate) the grimier side of urban life. But the circuit also bubbles with what we have often termed “progressive” hip hop, with anti-thug and occasionally anti-music-business attitudes, intelligence and experimentation, a slice of the genre that we feel is gaining momentum, in part, due to non-traditional media coverage, like ours, and the seeming increase in recent years of venues more willing to open their doors to hip hop that doesn’t exude unadulterated aggression.
This is a good sign for artists like Premonition, who, with The Build, firmly plants a foothold in this realm. While albums by artists in this lane can be off-putting to portions of the overall hip hop audience, they are a welcome change of pace for those who continue to seek hip hop on a truly higher level. The Build is a solid effort, and being the conscious artist that Premonition appears to be, will will likely make a concerted effort to gauge what worked, and what didn’t, so we expect that subsequent releases will “build” on the added recognition that this project is likely to bring.
Premonition celebrates the release of The Build with an album release event at Drom, 85 Avenue A, NYC on July 1st. Doors open at 8:30pm, showtime is at 10:00pm and features performances by Premonition, Cavalier, Dyalekt, L.I.F.E Long & Sleepwalkas, with DJ M-Tri on the wheels. The event is hosted by NYC hip hop veteran Tah Phrum Duh Bush and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Fighting For Futures, an “organization that uses creative means to empower underprivileged youth around the world.”
For more on Premonition and to download or purchase The Build, visit www.PremonitionMusic.com.