February 26, 2009

Test Spin: See No Evil

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See No Evil restored my faith in rap music. Between the synthetic world of Auto-Tune and hype men, the duo of DJ Mickey Cake and MC Johnny Knuckles have created an album of pristine simplicity. Cellar Door Dreams, combines Cake’s samples — ranging from Smokey Robinson to doo-wop legends the Delfonics — with Knuckles’ rhymes, an earnest combination of childhood meditations and uncompromised charisma.
Yet while some groups construct tracks as two separate entities, rapper and producer, See No Evil has an unparalleled cooperation at work. These two understand each other’s musical selves, and it results in a complete package — an album whose musicality is outdone only by its flow. Cake’s beats are devoid of synthesizers and effects, succeeding instead on a seasoned ear catching the uncompromised combination of kicks, snares and soul. Knuckles insists that if listeners “gotta label us as something, just call our music pure.” You find yourself in tune with the rapper, his words reverberating like bottled poetry finally cracked open. Cellar Door Dreams blankets every mood — “The Emerald City” and “Love 2008” sticking to the back of your brain, while “Shooting Stars” and “The Players Anthem” are constructed masterpieces, all serving to drive their message of hip-hop purity.