Album Review: Moka Only – Lowdown Suite 2: The Box (2009)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Potholes
Part-soul, part-jazz, part-psych, Moka Only has drawn from extensive musical influences for his latest sprawling creation, Lowdown Suite 2: The Box. However, this is nothing new for the award-winning Vancouver rapper/producer. Moka Only has been making noise within the hip-hop community since the early ’90s, and hasn’t let up. And it’s a good thing, because 2009’s Lowdown Suite 2: The Box stands amongst his finest work to date.
One of the most enthralling parts about the music here is its refusal to fall nicely into one category. Sure it’s a hip-hop album, but it’s much more than that. Full of timely breaks in the middle of songs, airy abstractions, and lofty keys, the production is sound and never dull. Check out the quirky soul sample over the sticky drum loops on “Trudgin”. Tracks like that and “Mothballs” draw potential comparisons to the type of left-field hip-hop coming largely from Stones Throw’s collection. But then Moka Only slips right into “Isn’t Over”, a rap about making a love relationship work, thrown right over classic boom-bap style production. What works fantastically about the production on this album is the lo-fi, atmospheric, chill-out essence of it all. Fitting somewhere neatly between Dilla and Pete Rock, Moka Only proves that he can take production in two different directions – experimental and classic – yet find ways to melt everything together.
Moka Only finds the ideal calm flow to match his stellar production. Tracks ruminate on and on about simple everyday life scenarios – on “Bored (feat. Psy)”, the two rappers actually go on about being bored (or not) in the house – the kind of rhyming that at times drifts towards free-associative. The overwhelming sense of ease with which the music and raps are delivered doesn’t require heavy processing. The topics remain fairly basic, yet are sharp with intricacies in each verse for those who do prefer to dissect lyrics. Lowdown Suite 2: The Boxis a sweeping statement from an artist who deserves every bit of respect he gets and then some.