Most famous for its nostalgic 1998 indie hit “Return,” Los Angeles duo Self-Scientific has dropped a steady, but tantalizingly slow string of amazing singles. Finally, they release a full-length album, and it proves worth the wait. Resurrecting the tried and true formula of one DJ/producer and one MC, DJ Khalil and Chace Infinite prove that specialization can spawn perfection. Khalil’s Latin jazz-based beats go beyond simple loops and create an organic, ever-changing stream of music. Unlike so many of today’s rap albums, which feature random collaborations with the day’s hottest producers, the exclusivity between DJ and MC here creates a special chemistry, bringing out the best in each. While less celebrated than his New York peer Talib Kweli, Chace Infinite is his lyrical equal. They share a delicate artistic balance between the street corner and the library, like the kid who can’t decide if he wants to be a hustler or a professor.
Infinite drops references to Muslim spirituality and social messages, and sounds downright conservative when he wishfully raps, “When it’s all said/When it’s all done/I’m just trying to plant seeds/And live in the long run/Bring my people out of the light and into the sun” (“The Long Run”). Meanwhile, he sounds like Anakin wrestling with the dark side when lamenting the lure of material wealth and love for vices on “Cash Craft” (featuring label mate Kombo) and “We All Need.” Chace decides the contradictions between good and bad are the essence of survival on “Duality,” the album’s apex.
Conceptually, The Self-Science epitomizes an individual’s struggle towards perfection. Musically, it reflects a nearly perfect combination of rhymes and beats, which seem made for one another. While not quite reaching the instant classic status of East Coast counterpart Reflection Eternal’s Train of Thought, Self-Scientific’s debut is close, and will be tough to top in 2001.
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