County Grind is counting down 2011's best local albums in South Florida. Monitor our progress here.
Whether you believe that hip-hop is dead or that it's just kicking through its latest rehash, one thing is certain: Hip-hop albums are six feet under the ground. Even Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne -- the "long-awaited" pairing of two of rap's greatest current artists -- is only about 50 percent worth your time.
Fort Lauderdale rapper Protoman knows that the times have changed. And judging by his frenetic output throughout 2011, he's certainly not holding onto a lot of his strongest material for a so-called "full length." But then there's Beat a Dead Horse 'Til She Resurrects. It's a risky venture to tie a whole batch of songs to one blog cycle and even riskier to carry much of the weight on your own shoulders (Jabrjaw is the only credited feature). But this creative spurt -- what skeptics call vanity and everyone else deems determination -- does resuscitate that dead, old album concept.
With the help of local label Footwork4self, Proto has enlisted a wealth of producers both local (Shawn Wayne) and borderline luminary (Budo) to fill out this collection with cold, ominous beats. Nothing shakes to the core more than B-Ju-assisted "Becky," which turns the genial rapper into a violent, whore-killing machine. If Dr. Octagon had no sense of humor, you'd get this tormented scene. "Don't Need Your Love" resounds with a similar angst, and so maybe you'll believe him when he says that this collection of songs was inspired by a period of life that was flirting with ending it all.
While the body count of "Roots" is lower, there's still murderous intensity in the lines: "Are you here for the music or the spectacle?" Ideally, both. And the latter is what ultimately keeps Beat a Dead Horse a fulfilling listen all the way to the end. The skip button provides the scariest impending death, and Protoman isn't taking any chances.
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