Mello Music (2015, Reissue)
If I hadn't seen a picture of this reissue on Instagram (courtesy of @4maldehyde, thanks!), I would have had no idea that it was out. It would have been a real bummer to miss out on this record because in addition to looking pretty snazzy, it's one of my favorite hip hop records.
I Phantom was originally released in 2002. During that time I was going through a phase not too dissimilar from what I am going through right now. I had essentially given up on hip hop. Let's preface this by saying in the 80's & 90's I listened to a LOT of hip hop. It started with folks like Boogie Down Productions & Public Enemy and it peaked when Del The Funky Homosapien, Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief and groups like that were pumping out records. Then all of a sudden, hip hop got pretty shitty very quick.
In 2002 I was paying almost zero attention to that world, but by chance I heard Mr. Lif and was blown away by this record. The beats are intense and full, with interesting choices and the kind of creativity that I hadn't heard in ages. Mr. Lif has a gravely voice that is especially suited to the sort of heady, newscaster/storyteller vibe he takes throughout the album. I Phantom has a vague concept album feel to it in that each song flows into the next and each story presented is somewhat influenced by what preceded it.
It's a high water mark for hip hop albums and it eternally bums me out that since 2002 Mr. Lif has only release one additional proper album. Right now, in 2016, I've again all but given up on hip hop. Aside from the years where Del releases something new, I don't really pay attention at all. I'm sure there's something worthwhile out there, but until someone like Mr. Lif puts out an album as drop dead fantastic as I Phantom, I probably just won't notice.
Mr. Lif - "A Glimpse At The Struggle":
Mr. Lif - "Live From The Plantation":
Mr. Life - "Earthcrucher":