On 2008’s The Layover EP, Evidence and The Alchemist formally introduced themselves to the world as the duo Step Brothers. More than five years later, in the midst of a particularly torrid work rate by The Alchemist, the two longtime collaborators have finally linked up for their first full-length album, Lord Steppington.
1. “Brothers in step, highly awaited.”
Without naming names, some of the collaborators who The Alchemist has connected with for entire projects during his very busy last couple of years have been…let’s just say, not quite in his league. Evidence isn’t an elite rapper – he’s far more workmanlike than superstar – but he’s got history and an undeniable chemistry with Alchemist that makes this kind of project worthwhile. On Lord Steppington, Ev and ALC are part classic rap duo/part old-school rapper-producer combo, with Alchemist handling almost all of the work on the production side.
2. Comfort Rap.
In reviewing Evidence’s second solo album, Cats & Dogs, I described the record as “meat-and-potatoes rap”: an unfussy mix of rock solid beats and rhymes. Lord Steppington feels in some ways like an extension of that album – a head-nod-inducing collection of musical comfort food for rap purists. The Step Brothers put their best foot forward on the string-soaked opener “More Wins,” and continue in stride, often embracing their underground roots with a regular dose of dark alley grit – whether it’s on the face-scrunching thump of “Byron G,” the minimalist glitch of lead single “Step Masters,” or the unnerving stillness of “See the Rich Man Play.”
3. Two birds of a feather.
While it’s true that the two rappers’ similarly monotone rap styles offer a certain coherence, it also creates a bit of redundancy. While neither guy is averse to bits of humor behind their poker-faced deliveries (“I’m high definition, 1080 description / Flipping…like things that flip,” ALC deadpans in his deep, perpetually serious voice on “Step Masters,”), it wouldn’t hurt for the color to bubble up closer to the surface more often. When larger-than-life character Action Bronson rumbles through on “Mums in the Garage,” he kicks the Step Brothers into ignition, getting Evidence “parachuting over Paris” and Alchemist “high enough to communicate with a dolphin.” There are a couple of other spots on the album where Lord Steppington could use a similar jolt, with hints of Alchemist’s heavy production workload rearing its head in the form of a few overly familiar looping grooves and vocal chops.
4. For them, for the fans.
If less conceptually-driven than Evidence’s solo work and not quite as adventurous as some of Alchemist’s recent collaborations, Lord Steppington is an unburdened work from two natural collaborators. While it probably won’t get much traction with those unfamiliar with their work, it’s hard to think many longtime fans won’t be satisfied with the methodical one-two punch delivered by the Step Brothers.