This week’s album is Stories From the Brass Section (2014) by Houston-based rapper Anti-Lilly and Portland, ME-based producer Phoniks. The album is their first project together. It can be downloaded off phoniksbeats.com (http://antilillyandphoniks.bandcamp.com/album/stories-from-the-brass-section) at whatever price you choose. While Stories From the Brass Section isn’t literally from the clearance aisle of any record store, the album is more unknown than a vast amount of albums located in the $1.00 or under section. The album was released March 8, 2014.
Although he incorporates his own compositions, Phoniks produces almost exclusively with samples. Phoniks fits into the new trend of producers who aim to fuse the old school into the new school with boom-bap drum-lines and a heavy jazz influence.
Even the album’s title reflects the big influence of jazz samples in Phoniks’ music. His production most closely resembles J Dilla or Pete Rock, two production legends, fused with his own modern style. Songs “Intro,” “Blue in Green,” the second half of “Decension” and “Young G” all contain piano chord samples, while in songs “Respiration,” “14 Til,” “Pay Homage Interlude,” “Decension” and “Big Payback,” Phoniks implements a jazzier sound with the saxophone. He modernizes his sound with some funky keyboard and a heavier 808-drum on many of his songs.
Phoniks shines on his seventh tape and deserves to be of hip-hop’s most prominent producers.
As for Anti-Lilly, his flow is very soft and relaxing, complementing Phoniks’ beats well. He provides introspect reminiscent of early ’90s songs like “T.R.O.Y.” by CL Smooth and Pete Rock. Anti is heavily influenced by some of rap’s legends; he frequently alludes to and quotes well-known lines from many of them. He raps, “Realizing the realism of life and actually it ain’t half bad/ I’m putting yin and yang in the same bag” to open the album on “Blue in Green,” referencing the famous Nas line “visualizing the realism of life in actuality” from “Life’s a B****”. He also shows some impressive internal and multi-syllable rhymes on various parts of the tape, like on “Respiration,” where he raps, “I’m out to make moves/ broke [people] tryin’ to pay dues/ at the end of the day, I’m just tyrin’ to stay cool.”
Generally, Anti-Lilly adds to the relaxing, early 90’s sound which the duo is aiming for.
Stories From the Brass Section is incredibly impressive for up-and-comers Anti-Lilly & Phoniks. Phoniks has already matured tremendously as a producer, constructing jazzy, laidback instrumentals for hip-hop heads to vibe to. While Anti-Lilly’s rhymes aren’t exactly astonishing, he flows smoothly over Phonik’s instrumentals. Anti-Lilly and Phoniks have great chemistry. While the duo deserves far more attention than they have received this far, their careers have only just begun, and they have plenty of time to ascend to the forefronts of rap.