The first full-length from Mr. Lif & Akrobatik (The Perceptionists) in a dozen years reflects the struggles and near-death sagas that struck them. During that span, Lif miraculously survived his tour bus plummeting over a 38 foot cliff. Akrobatik weathered a sudden aortic rupture and emergency open-heart surgery. The impact of those experiences forced the former Def Jux duo to contemplate fate, luck, and their own place within a world spinning out of control.
But their ability to survive has allowed them to thrive. They’ve harnessed a radiant hard-won optimism that refuses to flinch from the evils of existence. From the album’s first track, “Early Mourning,” Akrobatik asserts that courage comes from within, but reflects on the millions of young black men sent to premature graves. He considers whether gang affiliation is inherent in their souls, or more likely, whether things would be different if these neighborhoods were well lit and effectively policed.
If turmoil and inequity currently wrack the globe at record levels, Lif’s verses seem more prophetic than ever. His verses offer searing indictments of corporate and political corruption: corporations oppressing local farms, governmental duplicity in dealing with big pharmaceutical companies, and the crooked brutality of cops who get away with shooting unarmed black men.
On “Hose Down,” the pair brilliantly intersperse news reports from the MLK-led Birmingham protests of 1963 with the internecine problems of the present—where a traffic stop can still lead to a funeral. It’s as poignant of a polemic as you’ll find, but blended with a danceable Caribbean lilt.
With the Perceptionists, the personal is political and vice-versa. Akrobatik rhymes about his “desire to breathe in the sun before my skin dries out” but still refuses to be “the coward in a pretend hide out.” On “Lemme Find Out,” they kick ingeniously sinister dystopian horror raps about our grotesque addiction to technology. There are love songs over beats that sound like they could’ve been on Madvillainy, stories of cypher demolitions of would-be challengers, and dirty ass rhymes over dirty ass drums—as The Perceptionists sagely insist, that’s all the world really wants.
It’s music from deep in the trenches, songs that confront the blitzkrieg of bad news but offer light at the end of the bombardment. If you listen closely, you can intuit a profound story of friendship and camaraderie between Lif and Akrobatik—lifelong friends trading bars with the chemistry of Tip and Phife, Andre and Big Boi, Erick and Parrish. They’re mortal men who made mistakes, gained experience, and obtained wisdom. This is Resolution.