Akrobatik

Absolute Value

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Boston rapper Akrobatik has been in the underground rap scene long enough that he feels able to call himself an "O.G." This may be an exaggeration, as he's only been releasing singles since the late '90s, but he does have enough experience, rhymes, and smarts behind him to at least warrant giving a bit of advice and imparting a bit of knowledge to the younger crowd. And that he does on Absolute Value, his first album on Fat Beats, which mixes his socially conscious messages and his battle-honed cadence, healthy ego, and energetic production (courtesy here of Illmind, Dilla, J-Zone, and 9th Wonder, among others) into a palatable but intelligent creation that entertains as much as it educates. Akrobatik, however, draws more from Public Enemy (Chuck D even shows up on "Kindred" as announcer) than KRS-One, with his forcefully accented rhymes in "Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)" when he spits "You see there's more to life than rap and crack sales/But that info ain't made readily available to black males" or "They shut down the conscious rosters/But talk about being a pimp you'll get an Oscar," a not-so-subtle dig at the preponderance of mainstream, hardcore rap and the messages it spreads. When Akro tries to press his message too hard he can get a little preachy, and his lines can get a little weak ("What the fuck happened to advancement/See, heads are too concerned with romancin'/The stone," he rhymes awkwardly on "Front Steps"), but he balances that out nicely with his changing cadence, his many allusions to pop culture (Bruce Banner, Tom Brady, Groucho Marx, Don Corleone, and Richard "Crazy Legs" Colón are all mentioned), as well as his impressive guest list, which includes Talib Kweli (who actually gives a pretty great verse on "Put Ya Stamp on It"), Bumpy Knuckles, Little Brother, and Mr. Lif (along with a sparse Fakts One beat, making for a nice Perceptionists reunion). Yes, Absolute Value has a few requisite tracks -- the melancholy "Rain," the sweet "Back Home to You" -- but it also has a lot of sharp, thoughtful, fun material that knows how to keep the audience moving, both in body and mind.

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