If Griselda‘s run is the triumphant return to the dirty, grimey New York sound e.g. Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang & GangStarr; Nord1kone & Lmt. Break‘s Respect The Skills leads the march back to the other 90s flavor, e.g. Dialated Peoples, Souls Of Mischief and The Beatnuts.
Retro soundscapes can be dangerous those attempting. Nostalgia, often classified in terms of the five senses, are not of said Earthbound receivers. On the contrary, nostalgia is all about feeling. Not in your fingers, but your heart!
Often times, a recipe is recreated to the disappointment of those who consumed the original. This is NOT one of those cases.
Nord1kone and Lmt. Break blaze through this 21-track playlist with the grace and style of an era forgotten. All elements intact, they act as a bridge the the past’s future.
Respect The Skills starts like a boom-bap feind’s dream, but headed towards the middle of the album is where we get a few jewels like “Progression“, where Nord1kone turns philosophical barsmith: “Knock em out when knocked down/Intention is profound, take flight to hold ground“.
The choice to add Lmk. Break’s instrumentals as interludes not only adds to the pot sonically, but reinforces the idea that this is truly a duo. “Mind Calibration” is exactly what it sounds like.
The LP ends just as strong as it started with the title track before the “Home Stretch” outro, matching the “Sound of The Syndicate” intro and the stellar standout, “Smoke Signals” featuring fellow Outsider Syndicates, The I.M.F and Jimmy Beatz. The I.M.F absolutely steals the show in the first few bars: “Knock you out of consciousness/You lack the confidence, and the competance/ You as strong as this/Strip your bone marrow of its phosphorus/Crush your asophagus and take your oxygen“. Sheesh.
There’s genuinely nothing to not like about Respect The Skills, but let’s nitpick for the sake of advocating for the devil.
Nord1kone can be underwhelming in delivery and his bars get lost into one long sentiment, instead of pieced up with highlights. Lmk. Break’s production can be elevator-music-ish and you can easily get confused as to what song you’re actually listening to. Lastly, the 21 song tracklist could probably be cut down to an EP and still be just as effective, if not flat out better.
Now, if you only check out one track, listen to “Knock Knock“, a clear cut contender for a single from the LP.
For Hip-Hop‘s well-being…
PROTECT THE SYNDICATE AT ALL COSTS!