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Return of The Artist

Return of The Artist is an album that will always be ahead of its time. Specs One is a producer and rapper mixed into one person, a hip-hop genius straight from the 206. The CD begins with three solid vocal tracks “Open,” “The S,” and “Attack Of The Clones,” then the instrumental vibe of “North” cleanses your mental palate. The chorus of track five, “Who Is He?” comes in like hot green peppers, and your toes will definitely be tapping. “Who Is He?” is bonkers, simultaneously rough and smooth. “Rap Stuff” follows, then two more instrumentals, “Travel Addict” and “Home Suite.” While “North” and “Home Suite” could be described as musical interludes, “Travel Addict” is a full-length instrumental track that shows Specs One’s talent at constructing multi-layered soundscapes that constantly surprise and delight the listener. After a short love song titled “Only You” comes a skit, “Finding Mic” which leads right into track eleven, “Ode To Mics.” “Ode To Mics” is another signature Specs One slam dunk from this all-around superb release. Instrumental “The Block” sneaks by, then “Done” fades the album out to the last track, the wistfully sentimental “Wide World.” (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Specs One, the mastermind behind the legendary 206 acts the Elevators, The Crew Clockwise, and many others, dropped this album in 2004. Return of the Artist is a fitting name for this album, as it heralded a rebirth of Specs as a rhyme artist and producer. For years Specs had been legendary as the most underground of underground heads in Seattle, releasing shit at shows and at the mom and pop stores on cassette and through mail order. This was his first widespread release (on CD!), as far as I know. Released on the Abduction label, this was also a change stylistically from his previous projects. On his various tracks from his salad days (Numerology, American Music, Balcony,etc) his work had a distinctly experimental vibe, allowing the tracks to stretch out and grow on their own. I revere this early stuff with something close to adoration. Everything I’ve ever found by Specs has been a treasure. Here, Specs goes as straight-ahead hip-hop as Specs gets, which means it’s still underground, scratchy, and experimental as most cats never dare to go, but it’s all systems ahead with beats to make the head nod and lyrics that are always engaging. No track ever lasts too long, and there’s never any lag between the musical/lyrical action. The songs are solid, distilled to the prime elements, and no-nonsense. This is a classic Northwest selection, ranked at the top. Long live the Green Lover! (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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