Diverse

One A.M.

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

One of the brightest hip-hop debuts of 2003, Diverse's One A.M. is the product of a fleet-tongued, dictionary-savvy MC with a determination to put Chicago on the hip-hop map, and the right underground connections to do it. Diverse's greatest strength as a rapper is his flow, as he spins a dense web of painstakingly constructed language over the beats as though he were spreading soft butter on toast. In fact, it's so impressive that it's possible to enjoy One A.M. without even paying attention to what he's saying. Of course, once the lyrics start to sink in, they do reward the effort; Diverse is equally capable of abstract philosophizing or good old-fashioned B-boy boasting. Just as impressive is the supporting cast; nearly half the tracks are produced by rising Def Jux star RJD2, who contributes a terrifically funky one-two opening punch with "Certified" and "Uprock." He also handles Diverse's collaborations with underground luminaries like Lyrics Born, who offers some typically off-kilter robo-rapping on "Explosive"; Jean Grae, who appears on the menacing, superbly atmospheric "Under the Hammer"; and Cannibal Ox's Vast Aire, who swaps boasts on "Big Game." There's also fine work by Madlib on the mellow, mournful "Ain't Right," and some jazzy, icy-cool tracks by Warp Records' Prefuse 73, including "Jus Biz" and "Leaving." It all adds up to an impressive range of music, culminating with the closing track "In Accordance," which matches Diverse with Chicago avant-jazzers Jeff Parker (also of Tortoise), Rob Mazurek, and Ted Sirota, building on a piece from one of Sirota's albums with his Rebel Souls outfit. Clocking in at an ultra-tight 41 minutes, there are no wasted moments on One A.M., and even with a list of collaborators that reads like a backpacker's dream, Diverse is clearly the star of the show here. A thoroughly excellent debut.

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