Phelps, the emcee, lyricist, and leader a full band (on piano and vocals) called The Plug, which featured his father as a player, played a slew of shows this year and continued to collaborate with other contemporaries like Macs The Realist and his mates in Cold Men Young.
djkage, meanwhile, is the visionary producer behind the Imports series, which released a 2nd volume earlier this year. An emcee in his own right, he recently demonstrated his versatility against contemporary DJs in the realms of ghettotech, house and hip-hop through events like the Twerk or Die tour.
It was almost two years ago, to the day, that the collaborative duo of Mic Phelps and djkage released the first Grand De$ign. On Monday, everyone's invited to a listening party for Grand Design 2 at MIX Bricktown.
This album's predecessor already had a considerable chip on its shoulder, setting an urgent tone that called for substantial change over a soundscape of cerebral jazz samples and cathartic soul swoons. The stakes are raised for the sequel. A song like "WORD" off Grand Design 2 amps you up, with djkage's whirl-o-tilt percussion tightened to a danceable pattern but emitting a palpable aggressiveness, while Phelps...
give me justice or give me peace
get my lawyer or get my piece
i'm gonna raise my son
you can't touch my wife
you can't give me time
you can't take my life
you can't stop my friends, i'm young and wild
And as Phelps flies onward, djkage continues to churn these guitars underneath, with this marching beat buried just enough to evoke a heartbeat with its pulse raising ever so steadily. Phelps, as is his signature, speeds up his vocal cadence past the lyrics quoted above to a point of balletic blurs and angular enunciation, punching back various storms of oppression and a declarative digging-in to take claim of his own life until he explosively crescendos with: "fuck "10," I am on "12"
Then there's a song like "Word," with Phelps flaying hypocrites with that satirical refrain, while he further inspires self-empowerment to stay in ones proverbial lane. What's notable here is the syncronicity; Phelps matches up hypnotically with the danceable gear-spin of kage's beats while slices of funky guitar riffs flash in and out to give it this retro feel, half 70's/half 90's. Later, "Make It Real" brings in the pianos again, evoking a bit of jazz glamour and street poetry's imperativeness, a heed, a harangue, a heave to make it real... The horns kage finds are piquant, and Phelps is channeling Gil Scott-Heron. Intense.
But I shouldn't say too much more...because the final shape of this album, its track-list, its sonic ambiance, could be determined by the listening-party, by those who take in the tunes at the MIX Bricktown. But I can tell you that you'll hear cameos from Cold Men Young's steely/suave Blaksmith and Kopelli, as well as impassioned bars from Pierre Anthony.
Stay tuned for updates about The Grand Design as the month rolls along.
Meanwhile, you can hear it for yourself on Monday evening.