Recording information: Terra Tone Audio; The Lion's Den; The Oberlin.
Photographer: Dom Savini.
Mr. Lif's first album in seven years, and first for the Mello Music Group, is the aptly titled Don't Look Down. The LP is filled with "agnostic sermons," ones that got the Boston MC through a particularly dark time in his life, so expect uplift and hope, but tempered by those hard truths that come from an undying realist. "World Renown" is the key late-album cut with Del tha Funkee Homosapien, bursting out of the speakers with a nostalgic boom-bap production along with the entirely '90s attitude that hip-hop can save the world. It comes with a heavy, inescapable hook as well, and while "Whizdom" sounds like glitch gone hip-hop and "iLL" could be off-world R&B, much of this album aims to connect with just the slightest whiff of crossover. Still, this ain't no clampdown for the revolutionary rapper, and in true Mr. Lif fashion, his most "up" album ends ambiguously, exiting on "Amongst everything that came to be/I see this world is draining me" as if he was a Coen brother. Whether or not he lets the world win is up to the listener, but if beauty is in the struggle, Don't Look Down is the belle of the ball, and poetic comfort for those still fighting the good fight. ~ David Jeffries