12th Man

Artist: High & MightyTitle: 12th ManRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

High & Mighty and their Eastern Conference Records were achieving many feats five years ago that are perhaps too quickly forgotten. Their full length debut, Home Field Advantage was one of the most complete albums Rawkus ever released. It featured a pre-Dre Eminem, Kool G Rap, and Mos Def on the same wax. Their label was responsible for breeding talent like Cage and Copywrite, as well as working to resurrect the careers of Tame-One and R.A. the Rugged Man. Those days are passed, and High & Mighty as a unit are not celebrating their comfortable reign, but working to return to the indie forefront after declining acclaim and sales. Sometimes the 12th Man (Eastern Conference) saves the game.

While DJ Mighty-Mi continues to collaborate with other artists such as Vast Aire and Akinyele, Mr. Eon has faded from the scene. Without any guest-list, Eon attempts to regain his rep. Eon’s delivery seems far more comfortable in the past. Better breath control has allowed Eon to really alter his speeds from the once painfully slow flow he established himself with. However, his content is crushing. “Green Balloons” for instance, aligns Eon with numerous pop culture references and sexual situations, but fails to be even deft at bragging. One of the more interesting moments is “Outta Here,” which recreates the KRS-One classic in terms of High & Mighty’s independent push and dwindling name. Eon deserves credit for admitting certain realities, while defending him and his partner for choosing to follow their dreams of purist Hip-hop instead of running for the light. Still Mighty Mi’s quirky beat doesn’t tie Premier’s shoelaces – not that he intended to. “Dumb” is the most content-driven song on 12th Man. Here, Eon takes a page from Skillz’ year-end wrap ups, and covers all the pathetic, silly, and noteworthy news of late with heavy sarcasm, blunt ruthlessness, and some of his cleverest rhymes. Ultimately, Eon seems to be stronger than ever at rhyming, but equally as laxed in his writing. Without concepts or cover songs, these vulnerabilities are painfully clear.

2003’s The Highlite Zone was weak in production. 12th Man regains much of Milo’s momentum. His signature solo track, “String Music” is his best yet. With great scratching, Eon narrates the work deftly. This is the best moment on the record for longtime fans. “Wonderama” and “Crack the Egg” reveal that Mi can sample vocals in a way true to his foundation. The first is one of the album’s best records, with simple percussion and the vocals used to provide melody. Also to be noted is the great interlude “Bates” riffed from American Psycho. The music is more exciting than the lyrics, but dwarfs compared to the group’s early roots.

Despite its shortcomings, 12th Man is arguably High & Mighty’s second best LP to date. This joins Air Force One for having some runaway moments amidst a lot of effortless lyrical work. However, after the dismal response to Highlite Zone, this is what the group needed to get the card out there once more. While the content dropped, Eon has never sounded fiercer, and Mighty Mi continues to prove that he is one of the most capable producers in the underground.