P-Ro has continually had his handprints all over a range of dope hip hop albums for the last few years and ‘Handwriting on the Wall‘ is yet another first class creation. Whether he’s spitting bars, illustrating covers and artist tags / cartoons, dominating the boards / booth, rocking solo or as part of a wider conglomerate of insanely talented humans…. P-Ro impresses with the quality of his work. This latest project is yet another evolution for P as an emcee, enlisting a range of producers to provide the audio canvas for his bar work. It also draws together the worlds in which he operates, music and art / graffiti, in a well curated, enjoyable and entertaining album.
As always, this album is an investment. It’s not a quick skim through, or an EP masquerading as an album, this is a proper full length joint that is well thought out, perfectly curated and delivered. Even with 10 odd producers and some 8 featured artists, there is a cohesion and chemistry that can be felt when you hit play. It’s also a joint that you ride with from start to finish, not one that you hand-pick a few tracks out of, or skip to go to your favourite feature (although after a few spins I found myself circling back to a few joints, but we’ll address those bangers later!).
If your head doesn’t start nodding when the intro ‘Don’t Love Hurt‘ hits the speakers, then you need to get yourself checked. The production is delightfully dusty and there is an edge in P-Ro’s voice that is rougher and rugged than on some of his more soulful numbers. Iadonik let’s the brass sing on the title track, a joint that is dripping with soul and feeling and P provides high quality commentary before it gets rugged and raw when Lateb jumps on the introspective anthem ‘Never Let Me Win‘. You can feel the fire in the voices of both emcees, and I love the Chairman Chow production which has a range of intricacies that give it depth – which a track like this requires.
The boom bap maestro Bo Faat drops a punchy, melodic soundscape on ‘Bucket of Sky Blue‘ and P uses bars like “throw em webster before you let someone define you” and soundbytes to paint his picture and let you see the world as he sees it. The keys dance on ‘Look Right‘ and there is some real feeling not just in the production, but in the poetry that P-Ro is putting down, then it gets a little more funky and abstract with ‘We Were Here‘ featuring Lone Oaktree. The guitar drives the instrumental, but the vocal sample cuts through with some soul and both emcees are in the pocket with their bars.
‘Run, Move, Go‘ sounded like it was going to be a more upbeat, uptempo anthem, but it actually is a more deliberate, moody head nodder. The Mathias produced track evokes a darker, melancholic feeling, and the twang of Aztech from Hybrid Thoughts cuts through nicely and P stands and delivers. Uglyjon is in charge of ‘Told Secrets‘ and this track has a taste of everything from synth, horns and understated drums, which suits P-Ro as he drops poignant and raw verbals, before ‘Memorial Mural‘ is a robust, dedication to street art and the culture as Crotona P and P-Ro spit meaningful lyrics over the airy, refreshing Tali Rodriguez production.
Another fantastic use of soundbytes on ‘Walkin‘ which is really dope, soulful, funky… this one has a hell of a vibe and JQuest Beatz deserves flowers for this audio canvas, while P does it justice with brutally truthful real spit! ‘Waxamatics‘ is a CLOAQxDAGGER joint, with understated percussion and dainty keys, but the bars carry some serious heat. Each emcee steps up and drops the hammer on the mic, which is a well-delivered balance between beats and bars. G Fam Black brings his rugged and raw to ‘Green Hearts‘ produced by Crack Sizzlack, and P-Ro matches that energy and spits honest, introspective bars and allows the soulful vocal sample do the rest. The final track ‘Torn Pieces‘ is a brilliantly demure finale to what has been quite an interesting audio journey.
Bangers: Never Let Me Win, Green Hearts, Look Right, Torn Pieces, Don’t Love Hurt.
Score: 9 / 10. I’ve yet to be disaapointed with a P-Ro release, and there is some real authenticity and honesty that is palpable through each and every track on this project. Even the way he lets the final track ride out…. it’s deliberate andemphatic. The blending of the different worlds that P-Ro resides in, is evident so it’s only fitting that he has brought a lot of the usual suspects to help him deliver this mature offering of top tier hip hop music. This is music that sticks to the ribs, it’s audio art – and we’d expect nothing less.