It would not be outlandish to claim that Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar is the greatest eighties baby ever to pick up a microphone. His flow effortlessly glides through different vocal registers, the rhythmic patterns of his verses skittering frantically around each other. His language is vivid and abstract, his narrative perspective subtly shifting. He even often layers two or three differently pitched takes on top of one other, allowing himself to find a tonal Netherworld seldom reached by other rappers. He can switch his register at a split second’s notice, from trembling melancholy to gangster exuberance.
In his 2010 release, “Cosmogramma,” Ellison let himself ascend almost too far into this cacophonous, cluttered sonic stratosphere, often absconding completely from melodic concerns for the sake of exposing his technical savvy. At this point, he has arguably transcended the title of hip-hop producer, and for that matter all other measures of genre. If “Cosmogramma” was Lotus’ technical tour de force, then his latest release “Until the Quiet Comes” is the scaling down of his sample attention deficit disorder for the sake of a more pared down, melodically digestible offering.
Fast forward to 2012, and after a strong feature on Kanye West’s smash single “Mercy” and the release of his stellar mixtape “Detroit,” Sean has arrived in a unique position. He has built a cult following on the strength of his innuendo-smothered witticisms, but also parlayed it into a strong crossover buzz—recently collaborating with Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Justin Bieber—with little compromise on style or delivery. And while his latest work draws on the same themes of his past tapes, “Detroit” showcases Sean’s artistry that was largely dormant in his earlier work.