Too many writers waste ink trying to pigeonhole Detroit hip hop, sticking albums with unnecessary labels like "underground," or "conscious" or "street" without considering how pointless these classifications can be. West side emcees Blackreign and Ohkang largely avoid those arbitrary brackets on their full-length debut. The 20 songs on Greatest Hits range all over the stylistic map while trying to chronicle everything about life inside Detroit's city limits. Songs like "Why" and "Get Live Wit It" sound exactly like music for the titty bar. This makes sense, as the duo performs at strip clubs regularly. But then there's "In the Nighttime," a velvety-smooth pastiche of dice games, packed dance floors, gunplay and Coney Island runs that moves at a pace perfect for smoking blunts on Belle Isle while riding at 15 mph. That's all Detroit too, and Blackreign and Ohkang consciously try to depict it. Other cuts on Greatest have an electronic feel, and still others sound like they were crafted on a dusty, rusty old 808, which is exactly the point. These guys recognize and embrace the varying sounds that define the city, then crosshatch them so that divisions are impossible. Considering also that Blackreign and Ohkang handled the production, mixing, arranging, artwork and most of all the rapping on Greatest Hits, the album is a beautiful peek into the process of two of the city's most creative and surprising DIY artists.
Greatest Hits is available at myspace.com/blackreignandohkang.
Jonathan Cunningham writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.