When artists return after a hiatus, one sometimes doesn’t know what to expect. However, I had no doubt that the Bostonians Mr. Lif and Akrobatik, who together create the duo The Perceptionists, would contain reflections of current turbulence in America with their new album Resolution. Both artists are active in their own right, but it’s been 12 years since their last collaborative album Black Dialogue, and this latest project has a sense of urgency to it. Lif and Akrobatik have suffered near-death experiences since their last album together, and both of them are more passionate about their work as artists, but also more optimistic about bringing forth positive change.
The opening track “Early Mourning” is super strong. I had an idea of what it would be about, and from the get-go the beat is chilling. The verses are observant and contemplative, and the repetitive sample captures the “never again, but then it constantly happens again” vibe and the frustration of wanting to stop unnecessary death. “Hose Down” continues the momentum, commenting that nowadays, it kind of seems like the way police officers hosed down civil rights protesters in the 1960s was preferable than encountering a police officer on the street in 2017. I don’t think this is designed to be depressing, it’s designed to make people aware and communicate that there is still much to be done in terms of social progress in America. Syne kills the hook, explaining that whenever people get up in arms about injustice, the police simply step in to suppress to let everyone cool off. I’m kind of surprised this song isn’t more popular yet.
“Out of Control” is an appropriate follow-up, scoping out of the lens on American society and inspecting Earth as a whole. It’s no secret that people of Earth are confused and nothing makes sense anymore. I admire how calming this track sounds despite the lyrics. As with many songs on this album, Mr. Lif and Akrobatik look pain in the face and ask if it’s already eaten. The optimism in times where the end seems so near is delivered in a productive way. “Lemme Find Out” is an interesting piece expressing distrust of technology. With stories of companies inserting microchips into voluntary employees, at some point you have to wonder when a government that we now know possesses elements of corruption will try to promote merging organic and synthetic material. I’m all for taking the functionality of machines and applying it to humanity to improve our capabilities, but on my terms. I could use some new eyeballs, for example, but not if the manufacturer is going to force me to watch a breaking CNN feed whenever the POTUS breathes.
A clear focus of Resolution is on current events, but there are some tracks dedicated to the finer things in life. “When Push Comes To Shove” discusses the value of love and the idyllic relationship. The featured artist Dutch Rebelle serves up a nice flow. “Let’s Battle” is a fun recounting of a couple incidences in which Lif and Akrobatik had to destroy some wack wannabes. It’s good old-fashioned bragging that we love to hear because we all know at least one wack rapper who needs to be torched until they improve themselves. “Dirty Drumz” also carries a rugged beat with, as the name implies, some dirty drums. The rhymes are also dirty and the two artists send a similar message as in “Let’s Battle,” advising lesser emcees to just stay off the stage and let the right people rap.
The hopeful optimism that permeates throughout the album hits a peak in “Free at Last.” The difference of each artist’s message helps the track stand out, as Akrobatik’s verse is less tied to Lif’s and each has an individual message. I really appreciated this because it brought out some extra individuality in each artist. In fact, in many songs the two act of their own accord. Syne returns here and provides an uplifting chorus. By contrast, “Grab Hold” is treated more like dialogue, as both emcees advise that some things in life can’t be controlled and we need to be realistic about what problems we can put a leash on. The beat is bumping and wily, perhaps to symbolize that it can’t be controlled. I’m kidding, it’s not that deep, it sounds fresh.
“A Different Light” penetrated my emotion-proof vest and covers something a lot of us have gone through: Seeing someone who we thought was a good person do something that completely changes our view of them. Like, if you knew someone who was a great friend, then you find out one of their ideologies is just so uncool you can’t get over it. For example, if I finally met a close friend’s parents and I see that they really enjoy being legit Nazis. It’s shocking and you can’t just not address that! Over the melancholic beat, Akrobatik recalls when he was on his death bed and one of his chums tried to get with his girlfriend at the time. Obviously, that’s some weird, not-right stuff his friend did and Akrobatik can no longer see him as a friend. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it’s best to cut people loose if you can’t find a way to let it slide. Lif’s verse is on a different scope, discussing he has messed up and has trouble figuring out how to differentiate life lessons from straight pain. The song ends with the duo saying there’s “nothing left to do but bounce back.” It feels that way sometimes. We make too many mistakes in one life to dwell on all of them. “Resolution” is the grand finale in which Lif and Akrobatik sincerely apologize for their mistakes. I listen to many artists who acknowledge what they’ve done wrong, but this song is notable in that it doesn’t focus on the why they did something, it focuses on making amends when possible.
Resolution is a fitting title for this project. It makes one consider that although things are not as great as they should be right now, worrying or neglecting these things is not the answer. The Perceptionists understand that rapid change of the system is necessary now more than ever, but it will never happen overnight. Instead, conveying truth and frustration into art appears to be one way of contributing to change, in society and perspectives. Resolution is inspirational but honest, remaining hopeful but realistic. It made me wonder, “when I die, what can I say I did to help?” It’s a question that for at least a year has driven my long-term goals and it’s nice seeing and hearing others reaffirm it in ways I’m not artistically capable. I recommend you listen to Resolution before it’s too late, and it might help you contemplate your own situation and goals.