Personnel: Mr. Lif (vocals).
Audio Mixer: Seiji Itaru Inouye.
Following the cautiously optimistic 2016 full-length Don't Look Down, Boston-based conscious MC Mr. Lif teamed up with enigmatic abstract beatmaker L'Orange (a mainstay of Lif's new home, Mello Music Group) for the dystopian concept album The Life & Death of Scenery. The Fahrenheit 451-inspired story is about a society where all art, music, and literature have been banished and destroyed. Anyone who even dares to whistle is immediately executed. Citizens are fed three rations a day, and are required to pray to the sun, as the weather is eternally sunny. Lif portrays a scribe enlightening the masses about the importance of culture, and attempting to cause an uprising. The cheery, soulless narrator (portrayed by Wyatt Cenac) periodically appears via radio broadcasts, and repeatedly denies rumors that an uprising is pending, or possible. L'Orange's production is alert and blunt, with booming beats surrounding twinkling pianos nicked from vintage jazz records, as well as a few stray guitar licks, horn honks, or vocal samples. L'Orange has a penchant for looking to pre-1950s music for inspiration, lending his music a nostalgic quality, but in this context, the crackly samples sound like they've been salvaged from records buried under the floorboards while the authorities were burning every last trace of culture. While the message is grim, the music is captivating, and the duo (along with guests DJ QBert and vocalists Akrobatik, Chester Watson, Insight, and Gonjasufi) delivers heavy beats and lyrics without sounding too overbearing. Amazingly, for an album with such a heady concept, the entire thing manages to fit inside 22 minutes, as if a single wasted moment could prove to be fatal. ~ Paul Simpson