Hip-Hop has garnered a reputation over the years for being about the money, about the recognition, the women, hypermasculinity etc. However that can’t be all there is to it right, there has to be another side to this. Enter Ugly Heroes. Red Pill, Verbal Kent and Apollo Brown have returned to bless us with another installment of real music for your Monday-Friday work week (Saturday and Sunday if like me you have to work weekends). Since their original self-titled LP from 2013, the group released a self-titled EP and did an international tour, Red Pill dropped two EPs and his debut solo record “Look What This World Did To Us”, Verbal Kent dropped 3 LPs collaborating with the likes of Torae, 9th Wonder, Illmind and more. Lastly to round the group out Apollo Brown dropped two solo LPs and dropped a project with the legendary Ras Kass. After all those achievements things are still Ugly for this trio. Let’s dive into their sophomore effort “Everything in Between”.
“Everything in Between” I felt was a fitting name for this record because Verbal Kent and Red Pill connect some of the dots from their last record while also speaking on what’s happened during these last three years. What caught me off guard from the jump was that the intro track “Today Right Now” had more of a lighter tone than how their debut started (peep “Desperate” if you’re not hip). Apollo Brown brings a more lighthearted beat to kick this off and Pill and Kent speak on the idea of living life now while you’re alive. We never know when we’ll be forced to leave this life.
Immediately after “Today Right Now” we’re back to what we love about Ugly Heroes, they’re going through some of the same things we are. With songs like “Peace of Mind” we get Kent and Pill reminiscing over those they’ve lost and opening the door to their lives up to this point. Red Pill and Verbal Kent have shown time and time again that they can pull you into their world and show the struggle in life that we can all relate to. Other tracks like “Daisies” “Roles” call upon us to not only reflect on the issues that are posed in our society, but also call upon us to play a part in the change that we want to see.
We can’t talk about Ugly Heroes without talking about Apollo Brown’s production on this record. I’ve seen a lot of complaints as of late that Apollo’s been doing the exact same thing for years. I can see where this argument could be made because we still get the vinyl crackle, we still get the drums taken out for a split second after 8 bars of a verse. But if you’re to compare Apollo’s work from The Left, to “Clouds”, from “Make Do” to “Dice Game” you have to take into account that there are very different vibes on each project. For Ugly Heroes it’s not about bangers (though tracks like “Choir Practice” and “Force Fed” are exceptions), Apollo will get you in your feelings one minute and then ready to throw up a middle finger to the world the next. Apollo Brown provides the proper soundscape for Red Pill and Verbal Kent to express the stresses and struggles of life.
My favorite part of Ugly Heroes is where Red Pill and Verbal Kent dive deep and paint a vivid picture of their current struggle and how their past still affects them. “Unforgiven” lays it all out there for the listener. The latter has my favorite Verbal Kent verse I’ve heard, he speaks on people who have done wrong by him (an attempted murder, a guilt trip and a robbery). However he comes to realization that none of those events had anything to do with the other and the biggest step is releasing the grudge and choosing to forgiveness.
Ugly Heroes is here to relate to the listener, they deal with the same struggles that we do. They may be hip-hop artists, they may have travelled the world, but at the end of the day they’re working just like us. They see the issues our society has and speaks out against them. At 14 tracks “Everything In Between” showcases a group continuing to grow. The progress and growth of Red Pill and Verbal Kent on the mic is evident and Apollo Brown still makes upper echelon beats for you to break your neck to. “Everything In Between” is currently my favorite album of 2016, if you want slappin’ boom bap beats with a diversity of lyrical content to get you through your work week. Ugly Heroes is the group for you.