So, here's the good news: Diverse is a capable, forward-thinking MC
whose debut has dope production. His flow strangles beats, demanding
attention in the face of funk mashups and rock trickery courtesy of
RJD2. And RJ, hip-hop's quietest, most cunning producer, offers
nothing but the best for five tracks on Diverse's long-awaited debut,
One A.M. Diverse is also from Chicago (a rapidly burgeoning
scene for hip-hop with the arrival of MC/super-producer Kanye West
and a breakthrough for the Road Runner-rapping Twista).
Now the inevitable bad news: Despite all that good stuff, this album
still has received little attention and appears to be slipping
through the suddenly expanding crevices of underground hip-hop. Said
genre is blowing up and out in a big way. What was once covertly
occupied by the Rawkus roster and a few Kool Keith alter egos is now
traipsing its craggy personas all over MTV2 and Urb Magazine.
One A.M. may very well fade away with little fanfare even
though it may be indy-hop's most consistent album in months.
The album kicks off with two straight bangers, both produced by RJD2,
the guitar-tinged "Certified" and the slinkier, Hammond organ-laced
"Uprock." RJD2 can be a commanding solo artist, scorching beats with
authority on his Def Jux debut Deadringer. But as with Soul
Position (his side-project with rapper Blueprint) he also knows how
to step back and let his MCs dominate.
After a sample that declares "We want to capture your minds right
now, take you a little higher, with a little black rock," the
blitzkrieg is unleashed. Over a rolling keyboard stab and reverbed
guitar sample, Diverse lets loose with battling rhymes. There's no
semblance of order in his rhyming. Breath control is an afterthought,
considering he just spits, spins and slides through verses, non-stop.
The not-quite-frantic flow creates a chilled frenzy, a conscious
stream of wordplay. Unlike say, Busta Rhymes or fellow Chicagoan the
aforementioned Twista, though, Diverse's lyrics are comprehensible
Electrofunk/hip-hop/beatbreaking genius Prefuse 73 shows up to
provide a few tracks, too. On "Just Biz," Diverse gives us an idea of
his financial outlook. "It's only logical, we searching for that pot
of gold, designer clothes, finer things the higher society afforded,
but that surface chase of base is in every MC's recording." Over a
Rhodes piano and vibes he mellows into a chorus of "Diggin' my music
is more than just biz."
The album's best song, "Ain't Right," is produced by hip-hop
wunderkind Madlib. A jazzy sample lends Diverse a counterpoint to his
rapid-fire flow, highlighting this story song about untimely death.
Madlib again digs deep into his crates for an obscure vocal slice
that hums, "I know for certain, everything ain't right."
With production from Madlib, Prefuse 73 and RJD2, One A.M.
seems like a slam dunk. With that coupled with Diverse's wholly
original flow and dicey lyrical acrobatics, it's hard to believe the
dude can't get any shine. Still, I wouldn't be shocked if this review
is the first time you've heard his name. Here's hopin' it's not the