Mr. Lif

Mr. Lif's sophomore full-length is brilliantly structured to be a metaphor for the battle people endure to be heard. Mo' Mega moves from a chaotic first half in which the Boston rapper's frustrated voice cranes through the rubble of El-P's production (every bit as suffocating as it was when Cannibal Ox attempted to spit through it) to a smooth and lucid second half that plays up his knack for unifying subject matter. Hygiene is both the foil to the fame fantasy of the Eric B. & Rakim-inspired "Murs Iz My Manager" and the punch line to the smelly-woman dirge of the following track, "Washitup!" The album ends with a one-two punch of Lif's detrimentally fatherless ("Lookin' In") and willfully childless ("For You") existence. By that time, victory is clear. Over the chaos, over his remarkably articulated frustrations, over the "singles-genre" stigma of hip-hop, Lif triumphs. He's just too good to lose.

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Rich Juzwiak