October 20th, 2008 5:33 pm | by SHANE DANAHER Music | Posted In: Columns, Columns, Album Reviews

SLEEPYHEAD, No School (Dismal City)

sleepyheadWhat happens when you have just too much good stuff to run in print? You get extra-special web goodies. Here's Shane Danaher's take on the new Sleepyhead record.

Sleepyhead's Kevin Elder has remained low on the Portland hip-hop radar for reasons that are at best unclear—and at worst, downright confusing. The rail thin Stumptown native has six years of spitting under his belt, with endorsements from the likes of Copy and Corban Lester to boot, and No School only further proves his ability to contend with the city's finest rappers.

Most of No School's production sticks close to Sleepyhead's pre-established aesthetic, which favors synthesizers over instrumentation and shouted hooks over vanilla singsong. Though he functions best when rapping over something with a certain helping of grit, Sleepyhead drops consistently memorable rhymes on No School's 14 tracks, even when sharing the spotlight with Dismal City compatriots such as Oh and Shambles.

The LP's centerpieces, “No Pussyfooting” and “Lost Gospel,” feature some of the finest examples of Sleepyhead's comfortably aggressive flow, showcasing his ability to latch onto a beat and ride its momentum for all it's worth. An unfortunate consequence of this strength is that No School tends to lag on its mid-tempo numbers, but when Sleepyhead is paired with an able backing track—such as on the Copy produced “Move”—it's hard to find fault with his performance.

For a rapper of such ambition, Sleepyhead has remained mysteriously low key in his self-promotion. However, if his claim that “This is my generation's voice/Rap and MIDI” has even the slightest validity then Sleepyhead should quickly become a well-known fixture in the world of Northwest rap.


Photo courtesy of Sleepyhead

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