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Mr. Lif: I Heard It Today

With 2002’s I Phantom, Boston’s Mr. Lif couched his rage and systemic distrust in the trappings of a well-designed concept album, and as such, his suspicions were alluring—even inspiring. What workaday mope doesn’t fantasize about strangling the boss and living to see the rat race collapse? Unfortunately, for his self-released third album, I Heard It Today, Lif trades in narrative for an erratic set of points that pull from the panoply of rap ire while staking out little new ground. Petroleum politics, black-on-black hatred, a limping education system, bling, and unpopular wars are all fair game here. There’s even an embarrassing police-brutality skit (titled “Police Brutality”), and naturally, the album’s lone respite from all of this is “Head High,” a song that espouses smoking pot in order to cope. Most disappointing is that when Lif does cover new issues, he winds up sabotaging himself. The title track’s smart take on the housing crisis is made clunky by staged interview clips, and ultimately undone by references to 9/11 and “the president we didn’t elect.” This isn’t to say that Lif’s latest is bad.The production is highly progressive even when the vocalist isn’t—Edan’s cutup psych-soul reigns alongside fresh electronic-tinged entries from Headnodic and Willie Evans Jr.—and Lif is, as always, a smart and stylish wordsmith. The problem is that I Heard It Today could have just as easily been heard on any day during the Dubya years, and even for those who are skeptical about the change in the air, it’s safe to say that the same-old same-old isn’t gonna cut it.


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