Artist: InsightTitle: The Blast RadiusRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Maurice Downes
It’s difficult to know what angle to take when talking about a new album from Insight, this one called The Blast Radius. Long-awaited doesn’t quite cut it as you could say that about a bunch of releases, though with the respect he’s garnered in the underground you could start there. You could talk about all the hats Insight wears, this album being both emceed and produced by the man in his very own studio. Or, you could talk about his Boston heritage (by way of New York and Cali). Never mind all that, though, because it turns out that The Blast Radius needs nothing to introduce or explain it.
The first thing that may strike you about The Blast Radius (no pun intended) is how it wouldn’t be out of place among the Hip-Hop of the early 90’s. It just has that East Coast Hip-Hop sound (Tribe Called Quest, Redman, Pete Rock and CL Smooth especially comes to mind) with beats that are manic-rhythmic at one time and jazz-looped at another. Whether this is intentional or not is a topic for debate, but you can’t help but take notice. Luckily, it’s damn good early-90’s sounding stuff, and on top of that it sounds like an artist who was shaped by his influences, not one who’s copying them.
He gets to wear his influences well because he knows his strengths on the boards and on the mic. The production doesn’t lag in any way. It holds your attention throughout the length of the album, and nothing feels like filler just waiting for a vocal. The beats change mood when they need to, though in general it’s pretty standard Hip-Hop stuff that doesn’t take too many chances. But again, it’s so well done that you won’t mind that it doesn’t take you anywhere new.
Insight’s emceeing doesn’t come off like an afterthought, either, and the tracks lead us through some dense, often soul-searching material… you know, in addition to the typical threats to take you out should you battle him. With a combination of hopeful innocence and worldly experience, The Blast Radius touches on subjects like simple rhyme boasts on Hazardous Material to a humorous look at annoying “friends” on Bother Me, and then suddenly gets deadly serious about life and its progression on Evolve. His wordplay is clever enough, but it’s the lyrical dexterity of Insight that will catch your attention the most on this album. His flow is steady and strong without a misstep, and proves to be the most individual weapon in his arsenal.
But it’s all of Insight’s weapons that make this one what it is: tight production, heavy emceeing, and affecting tracks. As an album, especially an underground release, it’s not groundbreaking material, but this one will stay in your mind long after the end plays out… ensuring that you are caught by The Blast Radius.