[RETRO-FUTURIST WEED RAP] A suburban upbringing leaves lasting and vivid impressions that rival those produced by even the dankest of joints. Matthew Gonzales can testify. The Portland producer, known as both Lawz Spoken and MSTR CNTRL, grew up in the '90s, the era of bottomless Slurpees, Yasmine Bleeth and posters of flashy red Ferrari Testarossas. His latest record, CHRON: Legacy, draws upon those cul-de-sac daydreams and marries them with grown-up vices for a cotton-mouthed hip-hop adventure he calls an "'80s crime drama/sci-fi thriller album."
âWe basically tried to do our own version of the TRON soundtrack,â Gonzales says.
On the first installment of the CHRON series, Gonzales cast fellow Sandpeople member OnlyOne to serve as lead MC. For the sequel, he called upon Portland battle-rap heavyweight Illmaculate. "Since Illmaculate was the co-star on the first album, we thought it'd be dope to get him to play the main role in Legacy," Gonzales says. The two-time World Rap champion's delivery is as sharp as ever, set atop slapping beats and speedy synthetic hi-hats. A theme of escapism runs through all 10 tracks, in the form of hot-boxed verses ("Feeling lifted but I'm drowning slow, swimming in this cloud of smoke/ And it's about time, show me how high is cloud nine") and fantasy-tinged pop-culture references ("I'm higher than a jet pack on Boba Fett's back"). Glassy-eyed synthesizers keep the material in motion. The feel is politely surreal, much more cerebral and weed-induced than one would expect from a double-disc set in the coked-out '80s. It plays like a single, delightfully old school-yet-futuristic 40-minute dream.
How many bad ideas waft across a lengthy exhale of weed smoke? The answer, of course, is many. This isn't one of them. Credit to Lawz Spoken and Illmaculate for extracting the hard-to-find positives from decades-old suburbia, and for reminding us of the powerful creative process that allowed us to believe—or, at least, make believe—we weren't really there in the first place.
HEAR IT: CHRON: Legacy is available for streaming and download at illmaculate.bandcamp.com.