A couple years ago I was blindsided by "Watch How It Go Down," a DJ Premier-produced rap single featuring a then 24 year-old MC from Massachusetts named Termanology. Dude claimed to be "the holy resurrection of Pun," and even if comparing yourself to Big Punisher's a pretty significant (and loaded) boast, his gift for stringing together phrases is impressive; he hooked me the moment he dropped the line "From Rykers to Middleton, life as a middleman/Spendin' life illegitimate, livin' life in imprisonment". Anyone who can get that assonant without making the English language do bullshit contortionist gymnastics and throw in some non-preachy hood-political insight in the process deserves respect, which is why I'm willing to give him a pass for his first album, Politics As Usual, only occasionally rising up to the standards of that first single. Another reason I'm willing to give him a pass: he already set the bar for 2009's best rap lyrical performance on the very first day of the year.
Officially released for free on his website on January 1st (though a couple tracks, this one included, leaked earlier), Termanology's If Heaven Was a Mile Away mixtape is one of the dozens upon dozens of J Dilla tributes that sprang up since the underrated producer/MC passed away back in 2006. I'm going to go out on a limb here and call it possibly the best post-mortem Dilla collab going -- even better than Q-Tip's "Move" -- though it does have a lot to do with the fact that Termanology just goes fucking ballistic on this -- he doesn't stop, doesn't go for a hook, just piles on insane lyric after lyric that has you jumping for the rewind button at every opportunity. The worst thing you can say about this track is that you don't have enough breathing room to go "oh shit!" at a line before another one actually tops it a couple seconds later, and I'm pretty sure the main reason Soulja Boy exists is to provide some sort of karmic metaphysical balance against Termanology's pure, concentrated virtuosity.