I Predict a Riot
"I'm a revolutionary/Well, sorta, kinda/Got an African medallion but it was made in China."
In Morris Bergman's despairing indictment The Twilight of American Culture, he describes an alternative persona, labeled "new monastic individual" (NMI), as a viable route away from (and long-shot panacea for) the garbage of modern cultural kitsch. An NMI is defined both by his genuine desire for Quality and his utter rejection of both mainstream culture and any attempts at movement making (which inevitably leads to corporate cooption of the originally potent ideals). I can't think of a better NMI hip-hop poster child than Hezekiah. Reveling in his iconoclast-ism and "elitist" high standards, Hezekiah delivers a sophomore LP classic to make 'em "buy two copies, one to keep in the plastic."
Producing and MCing the bulk of "Riot" himself, Hez creates soundscapes steeped in the foundations of hip hop, full of dark corners and shimmering flourishes. Funky horns, airy flutes, and haunting vocal snippets waft in and out of rhythms built on crisp snares and warm bass lines, so whether getting deep in the groove or unleashing fire, he remains stellar. Many tracks are four-plus minutes but float by too soon, and even the conceptual workouts are interesting.
Lyrically, the self-proclaimed "most quotable, least quoted" MC wrestles with some complex shit (i.e., the experience of the modern black man) admirably, with a rough-around-the-edges flow and wordplay that supplements the hunger in his voice. The middle of "Riot," built around love jams and exercises in cool, sags a little in between the flame-throwing openers and soulful ending, but the album as a whole is exquisite. Despite Dilla's untimely passing, this neo-soul/hip-hop blend favored by the likes of D'angelo and the Roots may very well be the new evolution in (and savior of) rap. Just don't tell the mainstream.