UnLearn the World is an underground hip-hop legend. Beyond his acclaimed albums like Light Years and Crowns, Marlon Richardson is a staple of his community and hip-hop culture as a whole. From his work with the amazing non-profit organization Hip Hop 4 Change to lecturing at such prestigious institutions as Harvard University, UnLearn the World has used the gift of rap music to impact the youth and make every community reaches a better place. On top of all, he has done as a hip-hop educator, Unlearn the World has continued to gain success in the music industry, opening for rappers including The Lox, Boldy James, and Rakim, amongst many others recently.
Last year, UnLearn the World released his most personal album yet, Crowns. Praised by critics, including myself, where the album made my top 50 albums of 2021 list, Unlearn’s personal lyrics and passion on the microphone made this experience one of the most beautiful in all of hip hop last year.
Celebrating the success of Crowns which now has over 2 million streams, UnLearn released the Luxury Edition of the record, which adds six new songs along with a remix of one of the albums defining moments, “Never That,” which this time around features a guest verse from underground titan and Bing-Bong ambassador, Nems.
Entering the World of Crowns, we have the prestigious intro track “Coronation.” Between the majestic instrumental and UnLearn’s lyrics about how his life has come full circle and he is in a position most would have doubted he had ever reached, this track burns a fire into your heart. What makes this moment even better is that between all of the victory and pain, UnLearn masterfully depicts, with his vivid lyricism, he shows that he is still hungry and will not stop getting better till he stops breathing.
Immediately defining the album with highlights, “Wu Tang Nipsey” is another highlight with its lowkey instrumental and intense performance from UnLearn the World, where he lets us into his innermost darkest thoughts. Between the minimal but commanding instrumental and vocal clips from various Wu-Tang Clan members, Nipsey Hussle, and tying all of this together, UnLearn’s bars cover everything from the current state of hip hop to hashtag activism as he says, UnLearn uses this anthem to define the real over the fake in brutally honest fashion.
Teaming UnLearn up with the legendary Skyzoo, “One Day Is Today” is a defining moment of the record Unlearn’s career as the New York native and Skyzoo deliver a classic anthem where they destroy a boom bap beat with their charming swagger and head-turning wordplay. If you don’t believe UnLearn is an mc that can compete with the best of hip hop’s elite, bars like “Even Timbaland and Swizz will say I got the best Verzuz” will convince you.
Bringing the tone of the album to a more intense spot, “Great In the Game” pulls on the strings of your heart between Aristotle the Great’s powerful hook and UnLearn’s introspective lyrical reflection. UnLearn the World allows us to understand his human experience on this track, giving us examples of the struggles he went through while growing up in the World and building on these details by showing how these events have formed him into the man he is today. The second verse on this track is one of UnLearn’s best ever as he goes deep into some of his darkest memories, including his relationship with his father and relationship with an ex of his. Hearing UnLearn reveal these personal layers to us is both gut-wrenching and important as he’s showing he’s vulnerable to leave his story out there for everyone to see.
Featuring Nems, “Never That” is both the flagship banger of this album and one of the most flashy cuts UnLearn has ever put out. From the opulent instrumental to UnLearn’s calculated charisma, the original version of this track made my best songs of 2021 list for a reason. Heightening the one-of-a-kind moment that this track featured guest, underground hip hop legend, and bing-bong ambassador Nems tears up his feature with his larger-than-life presence.
From here, Crown’s momentum continues to roll with the exciting yet conscious “World On Fire.” Rizzo Travaille’s hook, the glorious instrumental, and UnLearn’s raw emotion culminate into another epic moment. In a more sonically tame environment, the next song, “The Journey of Elijah,” is a much more focused track with UnLearn giving us commentary about both the similarities and differences between his life of fame. Hearing UnLearn’s full-circle storytelling about how despite the improvements he’s made to his life, the other portions got more difficult to handle, the Bay Area MC puts the price of fame into perspective.
Teaming up with JAG, “By Any Means” is a an anthem all about UnLearn’s triumphant spirit and the fast-paced soul sample chops give this song one of the most unique soundscapes on the entire project. On the note of soul samples, “Messiah Complex” is another standout moment on this project with its choir-infused instrumental. Between this song’s musical beauty and UnLearn’s cut-throat verses, this track is another potent analysis of UnLearn’s psyche.
Being on the more fun side of things, “Pull Up and Pop Out” is a cut on the record which shows UnLearn flexing his muscles with a trap sound, and while the song serves its purpose, it feels out of place in comparison to the rest of the tracks. Fortunately, this album’s balance is restored on “Use 2” which incorporates trap drums over some of the most lively soul samplings on the entire project. UnLearn’s playful flows and rags-to-riches storytelling add to Crown’s collective consciousness pretty well.
As this album progresses, UnLearn’s performance seems to grow more and more passionate, and this sentiment is embodied heavily in “Move Away.” UnLearn’s blend of confidence and knowledge makes this song work so well, and sonically the tracks are minimal but memorizing soul sample loop fits into the record’s musical aesthetic like a puzzle piece.
Working as one of the most complex and important tracks on the record, “Flawed Hero” is a cut that slows down the tempo to let UnLearn melt into our hearts as he unravels an array of his biggest anxieties. Despite the pain he lays out, UnLearn overcomes these troubles with his fighting spirit, which is displayed in his bars which turn the negatives he’s faced into positives.
Showing UnLearn’s dedication to fatherhood, “Feel Alive” is another standout on the record as UnLearn talks about the relationship he has with his son. UnLearn depicts the entirety of their relationship so well as he talks about all he fought through to ensure his kid was in the best position possible.
On the wordplay-filled “Super Saiyan,” UnLearn embodies everything Crowns is about as he delivers themes centered around the album’s core messages. UnLearn stresses the importance of keeping moving forward and talks about how things like hip-hop saved him from going down a dark path.
Moving past the core experience of UnLearn the World’s Crowns, the deluxe portion of the record pushes the Bay Areas mc’s artistry to the max while enhancing the themes of the record in the long run.
Teaming up with Locksmith and Drumwork’s 7xvethgenius for the song “Black Angels,” the three team up for a firey cut, where they show off their lyrical skill and conscious thoughts as they rip off band-aids in society and move forward with their commanding auras.
When it comes to mastering the trap sound, “Slave Owners” is one of the most exciting tracks UnLearn has ever released with his inciting vocals, which are filled with so much power and conviction. “Stretch Limo” is another solid trap cut, which captures the successful chaos of UnLearn’s lifestyle.
Serving as one of the most unique cuts on the project, “Back Outside” is an intoxicating dance track that pushes how far UnLearn the World’s artistry goes. The instrumental is so smooth on this track and hearing UnLearn start rapping in Spanish further shows how skilled of an mc he is.
Teaming back up with Rizzo Travaille, “Star Gate” is one of the record’s peak moments as UnLearn summarizes his entire life story here.
From experiencing racism to keeping his soul pure in a world of delusion, UnLearn challenges listeners by giving us some of the most vivid details from his life experience here and this makes for one of the most significant moments of his career.
“Young Blood” is one of the best-produced cuts in the universe of this record, as it features a high-stakes dramatic soul loop where UnLearn tells the truths of all the problems in the system of our World. Using this moment to speak to the youth and attempt to guide them on how to live in a world and society stacked against them, UnLearn’s wisdom shines brighter than ever here.
Exiting the World of Crowns, Smile is another beautifully sounding song with its tear-jerking gospel beat where the New York native paints out one last lyrical canvas. UnLearn flows so well over this piano-infused beat and hearing him talk about all he’s done to overcome the odds and how he’s inspiring others closes the cover on this chapter of UnLearn’s career in the most memorable fashion possible.
All in all, between the core experience of Crowns standard record and all it adds in its deluxe, the record is both a musically beautiful experience and one that how the power to change lives. UnLearn the World’s performance is truly breathtaking, and you can hear him put his heart into every corner of this lp. With features like Skyzoo and Nems, UnLearn has truly made Crowns an unforgettable hip-hop experience for anyone invested in the culture. If you’re looking for a hip-hop experience filled with powerful ideas, technical skill, amazing production, and emotion most importantly, look no further than UnLearn the World’s Crowns.