On the surface, Mr. Lif’s first official long-player is another head cracking, Hip-Hop masterpiece. This is standard for the Def Jux roll call of independent releases. Also standard is the need to give these releases an extra couple of spins before the artist’s broad scope can be fully overstood. I Phantom plays almost like a Hip-Hopera, relaying the message from beginning to end, and telling the story as an epic. Set dead center in the heat of day-to-day struggle, Lif’s perspective jumps back and forth from character to character to paint a picture containing many of the ailments plaguing today’s human routine. The album’s backdrop is set with a dream of obtaining a gun, and then robbing a store for food, being shot and killed, then resurrected by the almighty Beat. The dream ends with the sound of his alarm, and it’s back to the 9 to 5. From there he weaves a tale of built up aggression stemming from his hatred of his job and employer, taking his job and shoving it, then being broke, being humiliated, and being reemployed due to obsession of loot. Sound familiar? The tale takes a few unexpected twists from here, which ends with the destruction of the world in a nuclear holocaust.
This piece is a good example of the evolution of Rap. Far from the days of “Yes, Yes Y’all”, this is the continuing saga of the deep thinking MC, intent on not only moving the body, but the mind.. Exceptionally dope delivery makes the message entertaining to follow. Much propers are due to the album’s production, a group effort by the now legendary El-P, NASA, Fakts One, and Insight. Club hoppers might have their hopes fall short, but Headphone Head Nod Junkies will definitely vibe to the intricate beats and rhymes of I Phantom.