Guilty Simpson | ‘Escalation‘
It’s been a while since I’ve written just about anything so what better way than to dig in with something that requires a deep dive, and that’s Guilty Simpson. Since Simpson debuted back in 2007 with the Stray Bullets Mixtape – although he has appeared on a variety of releases that date back to 2001- he’s built up quite a name for himself with sixteen releases, collaborations, full-lengths or otherwise.
This past October saw the release of his latest proper full-length album, the new Escalation (Uncommon Records), and while some things may remain the same, it seems there’s an evolution in his style & grace. For this release, the album is entirely produced by New York’s Uncommon Nasa, whose own distinctive production work clashes with Guilty Simpson’s vocal delivery, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the juxtaposition of both artists makes for an interesting tapestry of sound. Starting things off with “Spillage” things seem almost haphazard as Nasa’s beats pop in and out, as other instruments filter in, with Shortrock providing jumping scratches that blend directly into the beat. Surprisingly enough though, Simpson finds his way through the dissonant feel of the track, but yeah, crazily enough, it does work. As the beat for “Fast Talk Maturity” drops, one can’t help but refer back to the album’s cover imagery, which depicts Simpson as a nostalgic animated character. As the background static bleeds through, it’s almost fitting, as is Nasa’s vocals on the hook. Here Simpson does things his own way, knows his own worth, and he’s not afraid to vocalize it either.
The uncanny nature of song structures on the album is confusing, but again, they work in the artist’s favor. “The Devil” is a clear example and there’s a clear method to the cacophony of madness moving through it. This is exquisite in delivery and Simpson isn’t detracted by it, following the beat and dropping poignant rhymes across its landscape. This is insanity! Things become clear on the darkly hued “S.T.F.U.”, led by a hypnotic bassline with Simpson’s enticing words. Ok, I’m here for it, lingering in the back recesses of my mind, embedded for all eternity. The slow drag of “Can’t Trust Them” finds Simpson flipping and waxing poetic with Shortrock cutting things up here again. Of course, Shortrock has his own unique style of scratching, rewinding, and flexing on vinyl, moving hands over decks, unlike others. “Stakeouts” finds Guilty Simpson trading verses with enigmatic emcee Quelle Chris over Nasa’s eerie beatage. Yeah, this is strange but again, it works although this seems way above my own pay grade as both emcees seem to blend the abstract together in an attempt to make sense of it all.
In all, there’s nothing but certainty that declares Escalation is, well, odd. But it’s that oddness that makes this album unique enough to stand against any and all comers. This is a wild and trippy ride that’s tireless with the ability to deliver something new with every subsequent listen. This just might be the sleeper of the year.