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November 17th, 2010 CASEY JARMAN | Music Stories
 

CD Review: Luck-One

True Theory Outtakes (Focused Noise)

     
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[HIP-HOP] Portland has anointed Luck-One as the Chosen MC, and it has done so with slim evidence. But Luck’s 2009 collaboration with Dekk, Beautiful Music—a synth-laden, danceclub-friendly EP that showed Luck to be a prodigious combination of Common’s spiritual-minded thoughtfulness and Kanye’s playful futurism—set up some pretty huge expectations. Luck-One, then fresh off a six-year prison stint, was full of fire that he had channeled into something magical.

Nearly two years later, Luck-One’s highly anticipated full-length follow-up, True Theory, has yet to arrive. But this week we get a taste of what’s to come with the True Theory Outtakes, available at focusednoise.blogspot.com as a free download. The logic here—to quote one of the EP’s guest hype-builders, Illmaculate—is that “if this is the outtakes, just think of what the album is gonna be like.”

That’s a risky strategy. If these truly are the eventual album’s outtakes, then Luck is probably not presenting himself—after a long recording hiatus—with his best foot forward. But that’s not the vibe you get from the inspired lyricism of “Lions and Primates,” which, despite Sonny’s less-than-thrilling electro-funk beat, draws out some fire from the MC. Luck moves so fast that the listener loses him in the pulsing bass and synth strings, but the beat drops out for some of his strongest couplets. “Eternity’s just a blink in the frame of my timespan/ So if my fist can’t do it I know that my mind can,” he raps on a nonstop track that feels like getting a sermon from Bobbito Garcia.

The “outtakes” tag is kind of handy, as it relieves Luck of the responsibility of making the seven tracks fit together in a cohesive manner. These are seven tracks with seven producers (beatwise, Gen.Erik’s “Move On” and T Mak’s “More” stand out as balanced compositions, while Nonstop’s squeaky “Dream” beat wears on the nerves). But if you can ignore the obnoxious shout-outs from Luck’s friends and contemporaries, this thing actually flows pretty well. There’s an 8-bit soul feel that runs throughout the disc, and Luck-One is still every bit as fiery as he was on Beautiful Music. He shares the inner workings of his grind (“Shine So Bright”), his soft side (“Ribbon,” which is too anxiety-stricken to be considered a love song) and most of all, his heart. “They Say” is almost comically uplifting at the start, but in verse after pummeling verse, Luck personalizes his struggle past the 8 Mile cliché and into an Illmatic-esque double dose of sincerity and style. “This is me at my strongest/ finding my mind clear,” he raps. The truth is, he’s only getting stronger. If Luck-One can continue burning with his current intensity on a cohesively produced full-length, we can take him off the theoretical list of the Northwest’s brightest stars and call him the chosen one...for real.


SEE IT: Luck-One plays Saturday, Nov. 20, at Backspace with Serge Severe, Only One and Logics. 9 pm. $5 advance, $8 day of show. All ages.
 
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