Pro*Pain, Mars Ill's infamously delayed second release for Gotee Records will finally drop this summer. After a couple of false starts (the album has been delayed three times since its original release date in October 2004), the final version of Pro*Pain will be cleaned up of its offending copyrighted samples and be re-released in its altered format on May 2nd. With all the anticipation surrounding this album, one has to wonder what to expect when it finally sees the light of day. This review focuses on the original mix of the album that was finally discarded last July.
The good news is that when Pro*Pain finally does drop, it will undoubtedly be hailed as one of the year's best albums. Put simply, Pro*Pain is a quantum leap forward from even their Gotee debut Backbreakanomics. As groundbreaking as it was, Backbreakanomics can in no way prepare the listener for what Pro*Pain has to offer. Musically, it laps every other hip-hop album out there. DJ Dust has stepped up his already-high standards of production, offering up a much more diverse set of sounds and samples with which to build the musical backbone of Pro*Pain. Dust has an adventurous sense of imagination, aiming to incorporate everything from horns and pianos to flutes and acoustic guitars into the trademark Mars Ill sound. Nothing is beyond his reach, as each track is crafted so intricately that the samples intertwine, rather than just overlap, with each other. The production is densely layered, yet always carefully so, that Pro*Pain sounds rich without sounding impenetrable.
Just as good, and equally adventurous, on this album is rapper/emcee manCHILD. His sharp wit and unparalleled flow is displayed on just about every song. He spits out searing raps against the emptiness of hype on "Say So" ("You a poster child for wasted talent / That's the thing I hate about it / We the people's choice / And you don't even make the ballot") and reads his verses like an open confession on "I Is." As sharp as he is introspective, manCHILD is also relentlessly tenacious on each track, trading battle raps with Ishues on "Saturday Night Special," and rhyming in double-time during stretches of "Sound Off." It is his potent mix of confidence and versatility that makes him possibly the best rapper in Christian music.
With Pro*Pain, Mars Ill have unleashed yet another album of cutting-edge hip-hop, leaving the rest of the pack two paces behind and struggling to keep up. Dust and manCHILD let their presence felt with Backbreakanomics, but this time around, the feeling is nothing less than earth shattering. The scariest part about Pro*Pain is that it would have easily been the best hip-hop album of the year - had it been released this year, last year, or 2004! This is their best effort to date and it's downright tragic that a project of this magnitude has been sitting around virtually unheard of for almost two years. At the creative rate that Mars Ill are progressing, it seems only fair that time would be the only force strong enough to slow them down.- Review date: 3/29/06, written by Sherwin Frias
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