Make your collections large of the great.
That’s where you find Planet Asia. Embedded in the crates of those that know this music and yearn to put ear to a voice of technique, precision and warrior guided street spirituality. In these new grounds of dissolution, Planet Asia’s best works are his collaborative albums. Particularly the classic Pain Language. 2007’s Pain Language, an album of Muggs’ high energy cryptic scores lets Asia get the most of his dexterity when vocal speed and his verbal complexity of word coupling and crafty layering (i.e. his consonance use is strong) reaches a maximum. On the powerful debut of Golden Chain Military, 2010’s Chain of Command, the Asia led crew, the majority is also a high bpm workout and the excellent MC partners that make an energized hardcore training tracks. Now on the collaborative work with Madlib, Cracks in the Vinyl, the blissful oddities of Madlib tracks over a short EP give subtle proof that he can really extend himself over smoother tracks of lower beats per minute. For this full length collaboration with Gensu Dean it favors the slow burner over the high energy workout. It works well as Asia has shown that the consistency and focus of production strengthens his own intensity.
Gensu Dean is a young producer who has props and guidance from the best (i.e. Large Professor). Listening to his debut producer album, Lo-Fi Fingahz, his best attributes are the funkiness of his chopped/looped melodies and the crispness of his snare work. He produces songs that pull a high quality verse from his guesting MCs but there is not enough produced obsession for his instrumental. After Lo-Fi Fingahz and this Asia collab there still won’t be enough work from Gensu to immediately identify his sound but we are that much closer. He is consistently in the middle of being a strong to a great producer. The greatness of a producer is in the added chaos of unexpected sample or drum use they display successfully. This entails experiments that fail. On Abrasions, some don’t work and many succeed but the presence of experimentation here is the next step to propelling Gensu to fulfilling his potential beyond his selling point of perfect mirror of classic 90’s tradition.
Gensu’s preference of the mid-tempo paced track is still present here and this isn’t an album where tracks are immediately amazing. It’s the epitome of the slow burner as the most identifiable classic of the album, “Thyself,” reveals the Gensu skill of crunchy high hats and strong bass melodies over the minutes not seconds. Lyrically, Asia is at his best when his worldly notations mix with his building on the knowledge of self and “Thyself” is the signature track. Asia is an MC from the Rakim/G Rap school through Wu graduate work and on Abrasions he shows a comfortable mastery of the freedom enhanced battle bar as on “Throughout” versing, “This was well written 12” from Hell’s kitchen/Broke the spell to research for scientific/ 9/11 plot, my medicine’s pot, the young shaman/Next level rebel with knowledge nostalgic/I’m the OG that the youngins never diss/Cause no matter what, you gotta respect the cleverness/Above 6, where my level is/My level benevolent styles inherited/The lord of all worlds can show you where the devil is/Man of the craft still living off his heritage/720 rhymes that come a month/Under the steady, gotta be the most thoroughest…”
Beat wise Abrasions has interesting versatility for Asia to utilize. “Chuck Berry” has great popping snares fighting through an angry guitar riff only interrupted by a blip blipping on the chorus. The funkiness manifests on the keyboarded grinder of “Reflections” offset by the bass drum bump riding through a cinematic siren drop on “Cochise.” These are not productions that make listeners skip over to the instrumental only version; rather, they are appreciated greatly because they propel the MC. Production is the unification of musical elements and Gensu’s work is completed by the MC, here an in his prime Planet Asia. On “Reflections,” Asia rhymes with slow vignette phrases of the illest women while the “Cochise” verses are rapid fire phrased storytelling on gangsta retribution. “Listen” rides steady on typical boom boom bap of bass drums and snare with consistent flutes chiming in and out as Asia expounds on his supremacy cleverly. While “Tough” is a misstep with bass blips over done the experiment lets Asia rhyme at a higher speed he normally doesn’t engage in on beats this slow. A slower track Asia really excels on is the R&B keyed and Larina & Washey Choir chorus of “Do What I Want” defining today’s contrast of the real G’s and the weak rappers with “and the phrase youknowhati’msayin is 90 percent of the sentence in your interviews/real nigga to the world is how you’re selling it until you see the Gods come thuggin’ with intelligence.”
Ultimately, the tough tracks solidify Abrasions like the mean chords on “Coup de Grace (Final Blow)” or the piano riff on “Dignity” to “Bar Mitzvah” with its celebratory horn stabs. The familiarity of tracks is a problem for every hardcore producer 30 years into the genre and Gensu stumbles on “Thoroughest” slowing down the piano keys Primo used on Jeru’s “My Mind Spray.” Yet, Gensu is much like Planet Asia where their greatness is like a jazz album, it must settle in slowly and securely. Asia, after his Black Belt Theatre album, is consistently making complete albums with great tracks within. Gensu Dean’s emerging career is happening in the same fashion. Abrasions is an album of these united efforts. It tells us Gensu Dean has superb potential for a uniquely hardcore sound . Abrasions also reminds us that Planet Asia is one of the most consistent MCs out of the 00’s and one of the greatest of the West Coast.