By Alex P80 Parks
Nebraska’s shining light, Sleep Sinatra brings us his latest LP. Featuring a wide array of talented producers, Sleep remains consistent in bringing fans some of the best hip hop around. He does most of his damage over 90’s style, minimalistic production. There’s always either a melodic, hypnotic or a jazzy element to the beats he chooses. He stays in pocket, never reaching too far to achieve. Maybe that’s why he succeeds in crafting such great tracks, especially on this gem.
His last project, Amethyst, literally came with gems, as in a piece of amethyst for the limited edition physical bonus. Amethyst was a focused EP, primarily jazzy boom bap beats. [D]arkangel picks up where that project left off sonically, but adds some serious production heat, a bit more variety in the beats and an elevated level of sophistication and craftsmanship.
Conceptually, many of the tracks on [D]arkangel contain mini-intros or outros dealing with angels, demons, mythology, human existence, etc. These philosophical ideas throughout the LP are left intentionally ambiguous for the listener to impart much of their own perspective to complete that narrative. Sleep never pushes or imposes those ideas on the listener. They just exist, for an individualistic take.
Sleep Sinatra’s writing is thematically spot–on for each track. The whole album flows seamlessly. That says quite a bit, considering the varying styles each of the producers bring. It’s seamless not in style or production, but as in chapters of a great story or as several short stories in a compendium or collection. Sleep selects beats that fit his style perfectly and he provides a sonic journey with appeal for different types of listeners.
Sleep’s fanbase may be underground but he doesn’t just adhere to one style or beat type. His palette is broad with some rich and lush choices in his beats. This LP is very well rounded and provides an array of sonic textures. Sleep has really chosen some excellent production to rhyme over and has devoted himself to well written bars. Track sequencing is important to an excellent album, and even though each track stands on its own, it creates such a binding overall narrative that Sleep either touches gently on, or outright explains it.
This album resonates well for several reasons. Sleep’s often poignant rhymes never sound forced or judgemental. He avoids the tired cliches. His flow is casual, but not lazy. Smooth, but not trying to be a pimp-type figure. He is both introspective without losing the listeners, and cerebral without seeming too superficial.
[D]arkangel begins with Sky battles. What a hell of a start. Evilldewer is one of the best producers crafting beats right now, pushing the boundaries of sound. The beat is atmospheric and captures a feeling outside of the ordinary and mundane. Sleep’s rhymes seem effortless here.
BIE (stands for Black Identity Extremist) TCOR creates a swift jazzy scat. It’s an uptempo track with live-style drums. Plenty of ride cymbals and snare drum fills for Sleep to float over. On the chorus he slightly harmonizes:
“Now if you conscious they calling you B.I.E.
Think you ready to D.I.E. like B.I.G.
knowing that the hate is chronic still D.R.E.
Pass the peace pipe bomb- exhale spirits towards the east”
Check it out here:
Death & Taxes prod by Eyeree is a subtle melodic beat. Sleep doesn’t get eclipsed by a busy beat here. Minimal in production seems to be the sweet spot for Sleep Sinatra to really let his poetics flow.
Blessings by KVMI features a 60’s guitar loop with a rolling snare. The lyrics focus on pushing hard, digging deep to work but not forgetting to be thankful. That’s what we missing. All these blessings and things we shouldn’t take for granted. With no chorus he spits for over a minute straight. After he’s canvassed the entire beat, at the very end he repeats:
“So tell me what we missing..”
whether he’s asking the question to all or if it’s only rhetorical, his writing conveys those bigger ideas, the beneath-the-surface meanings.
Pancho in the villa UK producer Farmabeats lays droning bass plucks, a sharp guitar sample and a Spanish choral vocal sample.
Check out the video here:
He Got Game feat, Stik Figa prod by Illustrate is bass-pounding thumper. A little vocal sample and hi- hats persuade mad head-nodding on this banger. Stik Figa begins the track with his powerful voice, discussing other rappers who seem false in their claims and intentions. One of Stik Figa’s clever lines: “And ya homie ain’t ya homie if you never shared a roach.”
I’m from the era of the two-tone du rag
Before the hashtags,
lunchroom battles to determine who was trash
I would sneak into the venue rockin
homies let me pass
Now they paying promoters so they can open last.”
Annihilation prod by Stu Bangas sports a smooth slide guitar sample looped and chopped. Stu chops his samples so precisely, especially this one in particular is chopped so clean and seamless. Sleep spits:
“Say that I can’t and I’ma find a way
Master of survival traits
Impact how the styles shapes
My name is Sleep but I’m wide awake.”
After Hours feat Argyle prod by Phantom Janitor. Plotting and making moves, over a frenetic jazzy high pitches flute and a trumpet. Argyle adds a focused performance, playing well into their nighttime schemes on this track.
Divine Intervention prod by MeanWhile is a 90’s vibe with a female r and b vocal sample over a fading synth and hi hats. Vibe out and chill to this smooth joint.
“That type of soul that start evokin the chills,
You know that it’s real,
Force could put a hole in ya grill,
Mold the feel from components to me owning the field.”
Narcisse prod by The Historian is a beautiful melodic loop with a bass groove, subtle high notes and a sped up vocal sample. The Historian does it again, here in a less-is-more approach.
The second verse:
“I think I’m narcisse with the hard speech,
Flow illegal like liquor in prohibition.
How these bars reach deep in ya system
Brother just listen.
Huggin side roads with a vengeance, CD’s skipping.”
Temple of the Thugee feat Buddi3 Da Gawd prod by KVMI. A familiar sample used recently, has the somber melancholy, while building some slight tension. There’s a reason this sample has been popular. Here KVMI flips it on his own terms, speeds it up with some snare and flat hi hats. He gives it his personal touch to make it his own.
Noob Saibot feat Recognize Ali prod by SLUMLORD88 is an airy track, with muffled industrial snares and compressed bass pops. This track provides plenty of space for Sleep to flow. Recognize Ali stops by for a fierce verse where he just devours the track. A great showing of both emcees here. Sleep’s smooth relaxed flow contrast well with Ali’s grimy hard rhymes.
Waking Life prod by Illustrate is a punchy upbeat track where Sleep ponders purpose and devotion amidst false realities that people gravitate towards. On the second verse he rhymes:
“They say to be original is dead
I say you n***as talking like the sickness in ya head,
Scriptures that I bled
More than just a figment for the bread”
The Easel feat Wakanda One prod by Mar Rahqid us a repetitive melody with some sax notes, rimshots and tambourines which is just enough for the room to rhyme and also feature a singing r&b hook from Wakanda One.
Gatekeepers prod by KVMI plays a bit somber with some interestingly layered chopped samples of vocals and Japanese flutes. The muffled and stuttering drums are minimal to, yet again, let Sleep Sinatra flex his verbal abilities once more.
Sleep does appeal to a variety of hip hop styles with his choice of beats. He has plenty of boom bap tracks backed with crackling samples. He has drumless loops. There are tracks that are bangers with some deep heavy bass to rattle your chest. He’s got throwback 90’s style tracks, some with r&b sensibilities. He’s got edgy futuristic beats. He’s got tracks with tense samples. All the while he describes his life, his choices, the struggles of being a young black man in America. He details things in life to be thankful for amidst all the struggles that most of us also endure. Maybe that’s part of his appeal as well. By maintaining his sense of self as an everyday working class man with a family, responsibilities, etc. We can relate to him more than the emcee always bragging about his materialistic gains.
Sleep Sinatra pulled together some real top talent for production on every track. There really aren’t any throw away beats. It hits all the marks to satisfy true HipHop heads. Sleep covers as much ground as his solid brand of hip hop encompasses. Never forced, cliched or tired.
This man is a talented poet and wordsmith and requires HipHop’s undivided attention. He’s making some of the best HipHop that’s out right now. Don’t Sleep… on Sleep Sinatra
cop this album when it releases on June 29th at: