While many receive presents for their birthday, Bay Area heavyweight Unlearn the World has blessed fans with his fifth studio album, Crowns. For those who don’t know, Unlearn the World is one of the best rappers in the underground right now, whose reach goes far beyond music. From touring with Ghostface Killah, Jay Electronica, KRS-One, and Rakim most recently, to empowering the youth through his work with organizations such as HipHopForChange, the 40-year-old mc is part of the glue that keeps the beautiful culture of hip hop together as we know it. Following up a record like his 2020 magnum opus Light Years which was so good that it made the Fantastic Hip Hop Top 50 Albums of 2020 list, the bar was certainly high for this record, but as this brilliant mc has proved over and over again, he never folds under pressure.
Through 16 tracks that run for 52 minutes, Unlearn shows both his growth as a human over the last year while also displaying his high-level mc skills. From a smooth yet ferocious cut like “Use 2” to an introspective analysis of life in “Coronation,” the New York native’s versatile pen game makes each track unpredictable and always exciting. Between the hard-hitting punchlines and philosophic like analyzations on himself and our world, every word that comes out of Unlearn’s mouth just feels so empowering and true. There are many rappers who try to be this calculated and conscious in their songs, but their realizations and conclusions don’t come as naturally or as powerfully as Unlearns.
From a production standpoint, this is another aspect where Crowns shines through with its glossy soundscape that embodies the best of everything from classic boom bap to modern trap. A definite standout in this regard was “Wu Tang Nipsey” between its combination of a slowly moving, decrypted harp and some well-fitted trap drums. Topping all this off with some of the best lyricism on the entire record and additional vocal samples from a Wu-Tang Clan interview and you have one of the Bay Area mcs best cuts ever. The looped vocal sample on “Never That” creates the perfect dystopian feel for Unlearn to create a bad a** anthem which shows off his dominance over the competition. Serving as the lead single for this record, the boom-bap callback of “One Day Is Today” is a passionate moment of lyrical showmanship as we see Unlearn trade bars with one of the best mcs the game has ever seen in Skyzoo. Even in the type of year Sky has had, which has included the release of one of his best albums in All The Brilliant Things, being in the presence of the king of the Bay Area challenges him to string together some of his best bars of the year. Standing out on all fronts, “Great In the Game” is another one of Unlearn’s most personal showings as it pulls on all your emotional strings as he guides us through some of his past traumas that have shaped him into the man he is today.
As the record enters its seconds half and, it starts to drop its boom-bap roots in order to create some of the most dynamic sounding moments on the lp. The gloomy atmosphere of “The Journey of Elijah” thrives with the rawness of Unlearns voice over a beat you would envision many average artists to do average things over. While this could be used to make your next filler chart hit, Unlearn creates another powerful moment with the assistance of BriLeon. The unpredictability in the sound of “Messiah Complex” and “Move Away” works so well as it further tests Unlearn’s versatility and ability to cater to an array of audiences. Cuts like “No Sleep” and “Pull Up and Pop Out” are some of the less rewarding attempts of Unlearn’s experimentation with different sounds, but I don’t think their bad by any means. With a record that encompasses so many different sounds, some moments are bound feel worse than others, and these two tracks suffer from this the most.
Closing the project out perfectly, the three-song run of “Flawed Hero,” “Time, Eras and Moments,” and “Feel Alive” is one of the best and most rewarding finales to any album I’ve heard this year. The tracks really work in a pyramid as all encompass a side of Unlearn, whether it’s him the public figure, him the dreamer, and then him the person. All offering so much in both their writing and sound. Overall, these three tracks make for a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful album.
Walking away from Crowns and while it may not be as emotionally encompassing as Light Years, it’s nearly equally as good. Unlearn the World is a fantastic mc, producer, and artist, and all these abilities are shown on full display here. With the constant improvement and innovation on each album he’s released at this point, Id only expects this great mc to get even better in the future.
Written By: Mr. Fantastic