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Abstract Mindstate - Dreams Still Inspire (Album Review)

Friday, 13 August 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Mike Quain

With Kanye West’s new album ‘Donda’ delayed for another week (or whatever) greater focus has been thrown on a different project connected to the rapper-producer-magnate: the return of Chicago hip hop duo Abstract Mindstate.

‘Dreams Still Inspire’ reunites Olskool Ice-Gre and E.P Da Hellcat over West production, and it is the first release from his new label-creative collective-potential streaming service, YZY SND. All of which makes for a potentially interesting listen—Abstract Mindstate bring a decisively old school sound to their rapping, opting for double-entendre, political poetry and slower, more direct lyrical patterns that are delivered without the lairy slurring of trap.

It’s refreshing, comprehensive social commentary. “That social media, feeding ya, ‘til we greedier,” they offer up on Social Media. A Wise Tale is also noteworthy, melding gorgeous (if somewhat familiar) soul samples with low slung rap rhythms.

It actually sounds like West’s early production, with simple yet innovative loops employed beneath hugely charismatic bars that manage to sound classic, modern and hypnotic. 

Sound Off the Alarm has the same quality and though it ends (frustratingly) at just two minutes 11 seconds, the crate-digging approach to composition reminds you just how much has been lost in the morass of trap production that dominates modern hip hop. This is all good stuff, and yet the album doesn’t fully convince.

Despite the superstar collaboration (or maybe because of it) the record often feels undercooked; rushed, even. This seems ironic given the 15 year gap between releases, but not when you consider the hectic schedule of its producer. If this is the first record of a new streaming service that essentially equates to Kanye West artist radio, then it’s an exciting, enterprising development. But as the long-awaited return of a heretofore underappreciated Chicago duo, it’s lukewarm.

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