Statik Selektah is a 38-year-old producer from Boston, Massachusetts. Over the last ten years, he’s become one of the most respected composers in the game due to his acclaimed work with guys like Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson, and Paul Wall. This weekend he released his Mass Appeal Records debut and eight studio album, The Balancing Act. With features from Nas, Black Thought, Joey Bada$$, and more, can Statik Selektah create his best work yet?
With nearly 40 vocal features, there’s an array of topics and styles being spewed all over The Balancing Act’s razor-sharp soundtrack. Fortunately, most of the rappers featured are hall of fame level MC’s which makes the experience just as impressive as it is compelling. Whether it’s Black Thought’s vivid storytelling of racial injustice on “The Healing” or Bun B, Havoc, and Halie Supreme honoring their fallen contemporaries on “Way Up”, there’s something here for every fan of raw, authentic hip hop. A definite standout was “Keep It Moving”, as it’s back and forth storytelling between Joey Bada$$ and Nas is heart touching to hear unfold. When it comes to amazing tracks, there’s a handful of unforgettable gems, including Benny the Butcher, Braddy Watt and Paul Wall’s “No Substitute”, Jadakiss, Styles P, and Termanology’s “America is Canceled” and Sean Price’s “Ralph Laurens Closet”. Out of all these highlights, the ultimate surprise was Jack Harlow’s introspective “Time”, which revolves around the 22-year-old pop star’s thoughts on death and grief. Something hip hops been craving recently are groundbreaking posse cuts and with the Statik arranged “Play Around”, we see worlds collide between Conway the Machine, Killer Mike, 2 Chainz, and Allan Kingdom. Digesting moments like these make you appreciate Selektah’s rare ability to masterfully throw any group of rappers on a cut together. On the topic of unlikely pairings, Dave East and Method Man’s “Hard Living” creates a beautiful one-two punch between MC’s new and old. In a star-studded record like this, the highest compliment you can earn is having one of the best verses, and in this department, I tip my hat to Blu and Kota The Friend, who’s passionate deliveries and wartorn songwriting narrowly edge out all of the other MC’s showings. While some moments are just average, the list of top tier artists contributing to the album’s vocal component solidifies The Balancing Act as a modern all-star game between some of the game’s illest spitters.
Backing up the previously stated names, the sonic department is left with an improbable task, but for Statik Selektah, he arranges the most profound score he possibly can. Most of the instrumentals presented are glorious, angelic, and within these guidelines, the Boston composer is in his pure element. “Keep It Moving”, “Hard Living”, “Time”, and “Way Up” highlight this with their vibrant samples and transcending chords. Upping his skills to the next level, “Off My Mind”, “Soul Custody”, “No More”, and “Ralph Laurens Closet” show off some of the most intoxicating sped up soul sampled beats of the year. Even with its purity, Statik Selektah isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty on cuts like “Play Around” and “No Substitute”, which embody the grittiness of his early days. While these styles display the different mediums in Selektah’s range, the consistent force through the 46-minute experience are his drum patterns, which fuse classic boom-bap with expensive modern hip hop. Seen with the glossy high-hats of “America is Canceled” and the snare oriented “Watch Me”, the percussion arrangements serve as each song’s heart and push emotional undertones forward. With a soundscape, this intricate, Statik Selektah throws makes a late entry in the race for producer of the year.
While the Balancing Act isn’t as narratively sound as some of his more focused ventures, it’s amongst the top of Statik Selektah’s catalog. There are few records in recent memory that can match its star power, and once its instrumental backdrops are taken into consideration, the album enters an even smaller group. Looking at the big picture, this is another strong entry to support Statik Selektah’s place amongst the best producers to ever live, and as it stands, the 38-year-old Bostonian has solidified this honor.
- Amazing versatile soundtrack
- Features play their role masterfully
- Memorable beats and verses
- Being a record that lacks one voice’s unity, not having a binding narrative or thought stream limits how great it could be
- Few dull verses/moments
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop