Men of Many Crowns: Review

I took my first listen of Men of Many Crowns self-titled debut album while raking leaves in my parents front yard. I may as well have been aimlessly skipping stones because the afternoon wind picked up every fifteen minutes, throwing me off and giving me an excuse to keep checking my phone to see what track I had just listened to. Like the romantic I am, I was all about the juxtaposition of listening to sounds created in a warmer place while doing some east coast upstate New York chores and letting my mind get lost in the album.

The album is the first release of a new collaboration between San Diego emcee MoodSwingKing and DJ/producer W. Steele, and has with ease found a place in my heart’s top 10 albums released this year. For me, this was a year of “good, not great hip hop releases in general, and the last two months of this year are totally making me reconsider and get hyped for what 2015 has in store.

Plus, wicked bonus – it’s available for the generous pay-what-you-want download option.

Much like my friend Jeff at Shiny Glass Houses wrote, I also am not often exposed to west coast hip hop, mainly out of focusing on what’s being created in my backyard and therefore not having it high on my priority list. But if this album is any indication of what I have yet to discover, I definitely have been sleeping for way too long. I also find it pleasant to have a reminder, such as this album, that in this world of independent hip hop, we really do run in similar circles from coast to coast.

W. Steele and MoodSwingKing have the ideal partnership in that both have a similar point of view, but different experiences and approaches that let them meet in the middle to collaborate. Both have built quite the C.V. over the years — W. Steele has spent a vast majority of his career working with artists of both coasts, both as a DJ and producer, while MoodSwingKing holds roots strong in the San Diego as an emcee. Together, I’m a bit surprised this is just the first project they’ve put out because what they are doing really WORKS.

While the album clocks in on the shorter side, these gentlemen cover a lot of ground both stylistically and lyrically. Each track is carefully included and I felt there was no filler on this album, even the intro and outro tracks helped tie it all together. The production on the self-titled track “Man of Many Crowns is incredible and really stood out to me — I can’t get enough of those horns! The mood of the album shifts from track to track but overall maintains a bold but not overpowering confidence that holds weight throughout the album. You can listen to this album while hanging out with friends pre-gaming or while chillin’ on the bus — it flows. This is also not an album showcasing ego; this is an album showcasing hard work, self-assurance and honesty. And hey, when it’s good, it’s good!

The album was mixed and mastered by P.J. Katz of Fat Buckle Audio and was recorded entirely at SGM Studios in San Diego. The album art was a collaboration between super dope artists Honkey Kong and Neko Burke, and is complex and gorgeous, fitting the music really well. This is an album of duality and balance, and no artist either visually nor audibly was over-shined.

KAB picks: “Doobies in the Deep End, “Man of Many Crowns, “Scandalous Desires (ft. Old English), “Oprah (ft. Bam Circa ’86).

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