Artist: LibrettoTitle: Ill-oet The Last ElementRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Jesse Fairfax
When thinking of the West Coast, even the most “die hard rider” of fans will admit that its slumped since the famed demise of Death Row Records. The Pharcyde broke up and Ice Cube discovered an acting career, leaving us with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre being the only superstars while The Game hopes to make a difference this winter. Meanwhile underground crews (The Loot Pack, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, Heiroglyphics, Hobo Junction, etc.) go for theirs and regional acts like the Bay Area’s E-40 get plenty of hometown love. Under both of the aforementioned banners falls Libretto coming out of Portland, Oregon staking his claim on the scene. Ill-oet The Last Element (Dim Mak), while a well-rounded offering with a diverse mix of sounds and influences, ultimately fails to blaze trails through the speakers.
The only thing that will suit an unenergetic voice like Libretto’s is a hype beat, unfortunately that aspect is lacking for most of this album. The best production comes from Dubb Flexx, but his contributions are few. Children singing on an inspirational hook (“Last Drop”) is a trend that has already run its course (Kanye West’s “Drug Dealin'”, Nas’ “I Can” and Jaheim’s “Fabulous”). The unoriginality continues with a hook chanting “Homeboys (show me love) up in the club, homegirls…” duplicating Ice Cube’s mediocre “We Be Clubbin'”. “Alma Mater” which utilizes a vocoder a la Roger Troutman on 2Pac’s classic “California Love”, and Notorious B.I.G.’s “Going Back To Cali”. Understandably this sound means the same thing to someone bouncing a lowrider on hydraulics that a scratched hook on a DJ Premier classic means to a Brooklyn purist but the fact remains that it comes off as generic.
The moments worth honoring are those in which the production and topic material give way to a universal feel towards the end of the album. “Minority Mistress” is a laid back head nodder that doesn’t sound coast specific. “Volume” featuring The Lifesavas is the project’s brightest moment, with handclaps backing hard battle rhymes. “Ill Acts” featuring Daddy O’Kokaine is more street oriented than most of the other songs, giving the audience a chance to see the artist from a different angle. “Boomerang Theory” displays his conscious side dealing with everyday struggles accompanied by a flute and a rolling drum beat that works well. The closing song “Libretto” interpolates the classic sample and beat used on Eric B. and Rakim’s “The Ghetto”, here the mc breaks his moniker down letter by letter.
All in all Ill-Oet The Last Element is an ambitious albeit spotty effort. More focus on creativity and attempts to rhyme with force will serve to capture the listeners Libretto seeks from the underground and the left coast.