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Overlooked: P. SO’ The Earth Tone King’s “Gateway to Greatness” (Album Review)

Posted by Dharmic X on 01/28/13 | Filed under Opinion, Album Reviews, Overlooked, P.SO
In the rap game, there are two approaches towards putting together an album. One approach calls for songs to be written, recorded, and arranged together pell-mell, with the frenetic pace resulting in a voluminous project or a flurry of instant releases. The late 2Pac Shakur embodied this approach, and the result is a body of work that is staggering, especially when you factor in his passing at twenty-five years old. It’s this primary approach that has dominated the internet model of DIY success, with weekly “freestyles” and monthly mixtapes setting a standard that has now become very difficult for the fans to keep track of.

While trying to survive the deluge of content that pummels our desktops on an hourly basis, it is worth sorting through the debris to uncover the rare project that has been crafted over a period of years, not months. Projects that result from years of recording and refinement, especially if unhindered by label agendas and release date blunders (trust me, at this point nobody really cares about "The Nacirema Dream") are substantive bodies of work that brings something original to the table.

That is why last week’s “Overlooked” focused on MaG’s "freedom.", an album that featured an unconventional, soken word-esque style. Meanwhile, this week, the attention turns to the New York and AOK Collective-representative P.So "The Earth Tone King", who followed up 2010’s "More Jelly" with his newest album, "The Gateway to Greatness". This album is holistic yet diverse, easy to listen to and yet difficult to put away.

The album opener, “Vertebrae,” finds P.So with complete confidence over his ability to rhyme and move the crowd. Dropping lines like “I’m Alfred E. Neuman with the freckles laughing,” it’s easy to see why other rappers “can’t walk in his shoes or tie up his laces.” It doesn’t hurt that the song’s drum pattern adds a head-nodding thump.

One of the best qualities about "The Gateway to Greatness" is the inclusion of songs that talk about love, but do so with subtlety and a balance that hip-hop often avoids. “She Don’t” is a perfect example. Using a lush horn sample as inspiration, P.So and fellow AOk member 8thw1 talk about relationships with girls who do not share the same love for hip-hop that they do. For any hip-hop enthusiast, this is definitely a relatable topic, even more so for those pursuing a career in hip-hop (roughly 50% of the RefinedHype Nation). A very important question is raised in this song: if she doesn’t respect the music, will she appreciate the effort put into it?

But P.So is not the underground’s Drake, sobbing about his relationship problems. Songs like “Angels and Demons” and “Poppy Seed” get into storytelling. Meanwhile, “Floating” is a breezy cut whose beat brings you into the rambling mind of the Earth Tone King, accentuated by a brilliant hook from Denitia Odigie. “Wake The Dragon” breaks down socio-political apathy and the distractions propagated by the American government. There is a balance throughout that makes the album more engaging than most. It doesn’t hurt that P.So’s rhyming ability is top-notch, using sophistication and precision to craft lyrically impactful music.

Production on "The Gateway to Greatness" comes from a variety of sources, in particular 2 Hungry Bros, KO Beatz, and Jinesis to name a few. It is on point from start to finish, to the point where even the dream-like “Burnt Sierra,” a track that features no vocals, is worth a listen. This is a collection of songs with a spaced-out vibe, with the intention seeming to take the listener through a dream state, ultimately leading them to “Greatness.” This is exemplified by the haunting bass of “Black Holes.”

The features on this album definitely enhance the project on the whole. The biggest shocker would be the inclusion of Warner Brother’s artist Outasight, who drops in for the hook and a verse on “Back Again” and does the song justice. There a few other singing features, but the most interesting feature is a unique one. On “Crazy,” a joint where P.So delivers two incredible verses breaking down the thoughts in his mind and questioning the sanity of those around him, Homeboy Sandman drops in, adding his two cents in the form of a talking outro. As thought-provoking as the monologue is, the song seemed tailor-made for a verse from the Boy Sand, and it’s a shame that this didn’t come to fruition.

Overall, "The Gateway to Greatness" is a polished body of work from start to finish. By putting together diverse ideas and concepts into one cohesive album, P.So the Earth Tone King manages to offer his whole identity without compromising it or turning to cliches. If there was ever an album to serve as an example for the benefits of taking time to craft music that will stand the test of time, this is it.

Stream and purchase "Gateway to Greatness" here.

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See Also:  Overlooked: MaG’s “freedom” (Album Review)

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