If you’ve ever been to Starbucks, you may have noticed a master barista working the shift with a little more knowledge, finesse, and manners than the rest of them. The spirit embodied in that barista is just what the Step Brothers aka Alchemist & Evidence wanted to capture on their latest album, Lord Steppington. The former Dilated Peoples members came together once again to showcase their differing styles on the mic. One thing was common though between the two: strictly bars.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a CD version of the album. Right off the bat, if you aren’t familiar with the typical antics of the two, you’d think they were a couple pretentious white collared equivalent, Hip-Hop jerks. The case is covered in maroon felt and gold detailing for Pete’s sake. But as you listen to the first track open with a cool, airy choir singing over a string composition and a crash cymbal and start reading the CD insert*, you know these guys are truly doing it for Hip-Hop.
Besides the difference in vocal tones of the two emcees (Alchemist raps, too, you know), you can distinguish between the two based on the pictures they paint with the lyrics. While Alchemist has a more detail oriented, direct and brutal approach (“Smack you out your hoodie shirt” & “Levi denims and crushed linen, kangaroo coat with the custom stitching”), Evidence hits you on a more abstract level for your mind to fill in the blanks (“Camaraderie is fake as f*ck/hidden in politics/drowned in hearsay/said I’m on top of it” & “I’m descended from a list of those who center they mind/And setting up a sentence and sighting my prime/So every line is aged but ain’t a sign of the times”). Their approach to the lyrics is most noticeable on “See The Rich Man Play,” as Alchemist transports you to a casino table where he’s playing to set his life straight and leave the streets. Evidence, already in a more comfortable position than Alchemist’s character, takes you through a few scenes to show you how the rich play their lives out. Then for the rest of the album, when you add the richness of other personalities courtesy of the guest features from Domo of Odd Future, Roc Marciano, Styles P, and others, it’s tough to even pretend that you’re bored.
The production was handled by Alchemist, save for one track (“Byron G”) which Evidence created. All of the tracks have their characteristic eerie element to them with sinister overtones. The most confusing one was “Banging Sound.” The beat is a cacophony of a man yelling on beat with a cymbal, and a mixture of other minimal sounds. If it wasn’t supposed to simulate the cops storming through your place and knocking skulls, or a similar scenario, I have no explanation for the disorienting beat.
As entertaining as the short skits were between the tracks, I had an issue perceiving the album as a cohesive project in a traditional sense. For the most part, you could take any two to three verses from the album, slap on one of the song titles, and you wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But to be fair, if I were to judge this project based on what they presumably set out to do-make some authentic Hip-Hop with their friends-they succeeded. On a tangent, you can tell that Alchemist and Evidence have an affinity for the word “step.” From an ad-lib to part of a track title and their album, there’s something about it that makes it a constant throughout the album.
Overall the album deserves at least a listen. And maybe you’ll hear a few lines that stick with you (“Some people know me/others on that Rubik’s sh*t/trying to match the color/most people can’t do this sh*t”) leading to purchasing the album. I mean, how often can you add a felt covered album to your collection for your sweet bachelor pad?
*”Evidence would like to thank Gangstarr & Ringo Star. Alchemist would like to thank you. All Guests appeared because they wanted to.”
Bryan Hahn (@notupstate)