Black Earth are back with a dope new album ‘Intensive Care Unit (ICU)‘ and as you can imagine, it is chock full of dope beats and killer bars from the duo (Kaimbr X Howard B Knoxz) as they avoid the sophomore slump with a fantastic follow up to 2020’s ‘Blunt Force Trauma‘.
The album opens with the title track ‘ICU‘ featuring Let The Dirt Say Amen and it’s a moody, dark number complete with an eerie organ for maximum effect. It’s a great introduction to the overall feel of the album which is intense from the jump. ‘Pyrex Poker‘ has a real bop to it as Kaimbr and Ken Starr get busy with the lyrics before ‘Switch Lanes‘ really changes it up and brings that energy and upbeat vibe that suits the vibrant flow Kaimbr uses to melt the microphone. Sean Born and Choppy Choppe join the assault on ‘I Walk Up‘ which is a no holds barred barrage of bars over a tradition sounding boom bap score with a slick hook.
‘Smell Of Gas‘ sees Kaim and Nathaniel Star deliver street poetry over a more concrete-jazz infused soundscape with hardbody results, backing up the bars with brutal delivery. The triumphant ‘HWC – Handle With Care‘ mixes things up, pivoting from the darker sounding production to a more vibrant instrumental but ‘Dark Planet‘ blasts through the speakers like a battle march with drums that punch you in the face while Kaimbr slays the mic with verbal darts. And that chorus is nuts! Sean Born is back on ‘OOHWOO‘ which also features Eye-Q and it’s a more soulful and purposeful track that speaks some poignant and introspective commentary.
The production on ‘Tote Guns & Shoot Dice‘ is a hip hop heads delight, with deep drums, snapping snares and a whole head nodding vibe that K and Let The Dirt Say Amen do justice as they spit their stories of hustle and grind. ‘Throwdown’ is an intricate little number that feels like an interlude but with more substance and the sample is crazy, and then ‘False Teachings‘ brings that ominous feeling back as K, yU and Sean Born emotively spit their truths. ‘You Got Me‘ strips it back and brings that lounge / soul / jazz mood with delicate and intricate production from Howard B Knox, while Kaimbr and Ken Starr bring the moody bars. Even the outro has a sick beat.
Bangers: Switch Lanes, Dark Planet, I Walk Up, Tote Guns & Shoot Dice.
Score: 9 / 10. This is a really dope hip hop album, from the beats to the bars and the blending of the emcees who are featured. Black Earth really have such a palpable chemistry which you can feel through the headphones when you press play. And you will press play more than a few times, as this joint stands up to multiple listens due to the varied production, the quality lyrical content and concepts. Get this one into the rotation now and experience audio excitement at its finest.