Artwork by Dan Lish.
After touring the world with Thievery Corporation for the majority of the last few years, Mr. Lif is back at it with a new solo album arriving April 15th via Mello Music Group.
A record born from success, failure and hard-learned lessons, Don’t Look Down is the synthesis of the past seven years of the Boston emcee’s life. The ups. The downs. The struggle. The strength. It’s the evolution of a man who’s seen the world and knows the extent of its powers.
Last month, Lif kicked off the campaign with “Whizdom.” And today, he’s following up with “World Renown”—a Pas Doo-produced record that finds Lif connecting with longtime friend Del the Funky Homosapien.
“Brought my portable lab over to Del’s crib to capture this madness.” Lif shared. “Wore my engineering cap & wielded my poetic license simultaneously to harness the chemistry of what has now become a long friendship between Del & I. Our goal was to bring you the uncompromised raw.”
Another overlooked quality of the Mello Music Group family, is their penchant for penning press releases. As someone who’s been reading submission emails for over a decade, it’s become a very mundane task, but you can always count on MMG to provide a good read.
Over a 10-song cycle, Lif delivers poetic testament that avoids preachiness. These are agnostic sermons written to conceal and nurture him during a bleak period—cathartic confessionals that offered a conduit to bliss. The structure of “Don’t Look Down” mirrors this personal descent and rebirth, a hero’s journey worthy of Joseph Campbell.
It starts with “Pounds of Pressure” and “The Abyss,” adrenaline-pulsing sagas where the narrator clutches his pistol, soaked in sweat. Over bone-bristling drums and smears of disembodied vocal samples, Lif’s protagonist is engulfed in violence, pushed to the precipice, forced into a fight-or-flight scenario. This emotional rupture leads into the depression of the third track, “Everyday We Pray”—where the hero ruminates on personal storms and the patterns of his demise—praying for discipline and the strength to be honest.
By the song’s conclusion, optimism has started to seep back into his worldview. “Let Go” reflects that with its self-admonition to search deeper and think smarter, let the light shine, and unburden oneself from the pain of the past. “A Better Day” captures the zenith of this positivity, filtered through realism and clarity. It’s a call to arms to rebuke the cosmetic and prosthetic, to scale these walls and “beat this vile prison we call living.”
With “Whizdom,” “Mission Accomplished”, & “World Renown,” the central character creates his own world, barricading himself from the ills of society. He’s aided by a beat from Edan and verses from Akrobatik (Lif’s partner in The Perceptionists) and Del the Funky Homosapien. The final act hinges on “iLL,” where the vulnerabilities creep back to the surface, incubating a state of reflection, in which the protagonist ponders the ways of the world—wishing for something more, wondering if this is heaven or another self-created hell.
The concepts all come to a powerful resolution on the finale, the title track that hauntingly echoes this mantra of resilience. Over taut minor piano chords, Lif tries to make sense of it all before the final fall, weary with a head full of ideas, a spirit unbowed, offering one last reminder that our most severe stumbles often lead to our greatest successes.
Mr. Lif’s Don’t Look Down arrives April 15th via Mello Music Group. Pre-orders available on iTunes.