Artist: EncoreTitle: LayoverRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro

These days it seems like most independent/underground MC’s are either cheap clones waiting for their turn on the corporate merry-go-round or whiners complaining like Homey the Clown that the man is keeping them down. Rarely do you see an indie MC with an actual plan of action to end our musical famine; an MC who at the same time, can rock the mic in that Kris Parker sense of the word. Encore’s Layover may just be one chapter in our guidebook for Hip Hop redemption.

As Hip-Hop grows and becomes the bloated bastard son of Summer Redstone and Jimmy Iovine, the very definition of the music is changing. Some believe Hip-Hop is crunk. Some believe it is gangsta (with an “a” please). Some believe it is dying and must be shaken up. Some believe we must return to the good old days. Encore believes it is time for it to grow up and act like a man.

Layover is a mature record from a Hip-Hop contributor who appears to have little to prove. Co (as he refers to himself in the 3rd person) references everything from Taoist philosophy & Destro of G.I Joe fame to yoga and the lack of marketing of indie Hip-Hop to the black community. What adds to the cohesiveness of this record are the beats, handled exclusively by Jake One, Vitamin D, and Architect. They are just as focused as the darts. “Step it Up, Wrap It Up” is a lovely mix of Jake’s beats, funky live instrumentation and Encore’s buttery flows. Encore is no rookie having been a charter member of the Stones Throw crew, first appearing on Peanut Butter Wolf’s debut album in ’95. He has since hooked up with the Hiero Imperium and this affiliation will no doubt bring new fans. His Hiero brethren, Opio and A Plus join in on “Traditional Slick Talk” where Encore actually outshines his new partners. Later, Encore hooks up with the much missed Mecca from Digable Planet on “Real Talk” over a Vitamin D beat that sounds like the “You Know My Steez” (Gang Starr) break flipped. They create a proper joint that you and your missus can rock in the Hyundai on a Sunday afternoon.

Hip Hop is growing. The audience is growing. The potential is growing. Its artists are growing. Those stuck between Aesop Rock and G-Unit are finally getting their heroes. Kanye West, Little Brother, Talib Kweli…you can add Encore to that team.

Related Stories