Thursday, 21 January 2016

Above the Law - Time Will Reveal (1996)

This one got me through some tough times. The most recent of these has been Christmas, which was okay in some respects - I mean probably better here than it has been in Syria - but nevertheless a pain in the ass by my terms, and at least sufficiently annoying as to inspire two paragraphs of whining which I've deleted because you probably wouldn't have found them that interesting. To get to the point, my ire was at least of such quality as to demand something to drown out the sound of stupidity as I worked on pulling Christmas dinner together, and Time Will Reveal seemed like a good choice because it's kind of uplifting whilst simultaneously being the hardest album of all time, it could be argued.

Whilst I'm proposing candidates for the most something ever, Time Will Reveal is probably also the greatest rap album of all time, or at least it sounds that way if you're me. There are undoubtedly other albums which are more lyrical or with a higher quota of drive-by shootings, but none of those albums are Time Will Reveal. Of course, this one has an unfair advantage in being the work of Above the Law who may as well be considered as being in a field of their own, particularly in rap terms - one fandabidozi album after another, and not one filler track to be heard. At least some of this is down to Cold 187um or Big Hutch or whichever name he's going by at the moment, not just a fine lyricist but the man behind the music of Above the Law and as such possibly the most underrated rap producer there's been. Cold 187um brought the p-funk to rap at least as early as Dr. Dre's better popularised efforts, but stuck at it, taking it somewhere completely original by the time we got to this one, Above the Law's fourth album. Time Will Reveal is cinematic rap at the widest stretch of it's metaphorical screen, with all the warmth and soul of one of Prince's better efforts but without the clutter or the sense of trying far too hard, or even working up too much of a sweat.

It just kind of slides past, cool and vaguely jazzy, and with just the right balance of terrifying. It doesn't sound like anything squeezed out of electronic boxes or written upon a screen. It's expressive and yet neither does it commit the sin of either muso or whole food tedium. It's very much its own animal, its own unique mood with combinations of bass and melody which might not be found in nature and nevertheless prove to be a perfect fit when brought together here; and once these strange silky hooks get into your skin, there's no getting free.

I get the impression that certain industry types hoped Above the Law would duplicate the success of NWA, which probably wasn't an unreasonable expectation given the influence each had on the other - most definitely a two way thing it should be noted. It never really quite happened, despite the relative success of Black Superman, but that's probably due more to public taste than the music. Time Will Reveal was the first album for Tommy Boy, and it tangibly sounds like they really went for it, working hard to make the best record they could come up with, perhaps as a fresh start after Ruthless fell apart. It's a pisser that it wasn't the massive hit it deserved to be, supposedly thanks to lack of promotion on the part of Tommy Boy, but it's probably a testament to the quality of this band that even Legends - the next album for Tommy Boy, apparently recorded in a hurry as a combined fuck you and fulfilment of contractual obligation - even Legends sounds better than the best of most other rap acts.

Time Will Reveal is cinematic rap at its finest, and cinematic because if you're going to share stories this dark, you may as well do it properly; but as with the finest blues, soul, or whatever else, there's something cathartic in the terror, even something redemptive. Actually, fuck it -  Time Will Reveal really is the greatest rap album of all time. You're welcome.

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