Sean Born – “Behind The Scale”
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2012 (Mello Music Group)
“Pour Out Liquor”
Well, plain and simple, I haven’t listened to much recent Hip Hop in 2011 thus far. However, early last week the advance of Sean Born’s “Behind The Scale” arrived in my mailbox (thanks again Mello Music Group!) and I was prompted to finally open my ears to what’s forthcoming in 2012. With that being said, I can honestly say that I don’t even need to listen to much else and I’m confident in saying that Sean Born’s solo debut “Behind The Scale” will be one of the better album’s released in the first quarter of 2012, if not one of the better releases you’ll enjoy this year. Described as “A gritty 90′s style album for those who grew up on “Illmatic”, “Midnight Marauders”, “Only Built for Cuban Linx”, “Moment of Truth”, and “Ready to Die”. “Behind The Scale” shows the other side of what some are glamorizing about street life and drug trade. This is unfiltered, real sh*t on tape”. It’s hard not to argue the sentiment of Sean Born’s publicist. They always say that the artist’s first album is always his best, and it’s hard to imagine Sean Born topping the effort and emotion contained in “Behind The Scale”.
First and foremost, you may recognize Sean as a card-carrying member of D.M.V crew Low Budget, via his appearances on Kenn Starr’s “Starr Status” (speaking of which, is Kenn Starr ever gonna’ drop his sophomore LP?”) as well as Low Budget’s “The Budget Is Low Mixtape Vol. I”. Unavoidably, Sean Born’s vocal tone and delivery will make you say: “damn, dude almost sounds like Oddisee ?!”. Well, yes and no. Lyrically, and don’t get me wrong I think that Oddisee is one of the most talented and unique emcees/producers in the game, but Sean Born digs just a little deeper with his rhymes and his story-telling skills rival that of Mello-labelmate Has-Lo. A ton of emphasis is placed on Sean’s surroundings as much of the lyrics revolve around Born’s current status and past incidents in this thing we call “the streets”. Just like Jeru The Damaja, Sean is, for lack of better wording “fed up with that bullshit” and he states his case plainly throughout tracks like the appropriately titled, Hassaan Mackey assisted “Bullshit” as well as the Oddisee-produced, “Pluck ‘Em Off. Tracks like “Go Hard” and “Skeez”, the later of which I’m pretty sure Kev Brown implemented the same horns that are found on King Just’s “Warrior’s Drum” for the track’s backdrop, find Sean displaying typical emcee braggadocio on tracks that both clock in under 2:30. Speaking of which, what’s most noticeable and desirable about the LP, in my humble opinion is the “play time” of “Behind The Scale”, which for my A.D.D. havin’ ass works out A-OK! The “advance” of “Behind The Scale” that I received is comprised of only 13 tracks. However, glancing at the tracklist displayed on Ughh.com, there are two bonus tracks, “Flood & Drain” & “12/12″ (f. Kaimbr and Toine of DTMD) are omitted from my copy. It’s hard to imagine anything coming after the album’s finale “Pour Out Liquor”, so it’s my guess that the two aforementioned tracks are “bonuses”?
Now, let’s talk about the production. With the majority of the LP produced by Kev Brown (10 of 15 tracks), upon first glance I wasn’t all that “amped” to listen to Sean Born’s debut. Honestly, I’ve never been Kev Brown’s biggest fan as I’ve found most of his production to be somewhat repetitive and prodding. However, I’ve gotta’ say, Kev did a bang-up job with his production contributions to the LP. Tracks like “Honor” and “Pour Out Liquor” (more on this track later) are some of Kev’s finest works to date, if not his best. All of Kev’s tracks are perfectly suited for Sean’s potent, visual and addictive delivery, all of which hold a ton of replay value. Again, this is where the LP’s length comes in to play as “Behind The Scale” is only 38 minutes long! So, I have zero qualms with stating the production and sequencing of the tracklist was done with proper vision and guidance, all tracks seem well placed and blend together seamlessly, unveiling Born’s pain, strife and struggles along the way.
Again, much like “Illmatic” or “Ready To Die” or even “Reasonable Doubt” for the sake of comparison, “Behind The Scale” entails Sean’s life to this point and it’s all compressed into this LP, as he states “I been in the game six ’95-’96″ and you can tell Sean is an “old” head. Hell, just look at the back of “Behind The Scale’s” album cover and you’ll notice “Side A” and “Side B”. While the LP isn’t on the level of an “Illmatic” or “Ready To Die” it’s suffice to say that Sean’s debut is one of the better first outings that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in the last few years. Only if the rest of the LP would hold the quality that “Pour Out Liquor” does. I mean, honestly, this track is right up there with some of the most emotional, honest and up front productions you’ll ever hear…think, “Can It Be All So Simple” or “All That I Got Is You”, with better production to boot! Yet, this album is just as advertised and as Hassaan Mackey’s stated at the opening of “Volume” from his/Apollo Brown’s “Daily Bread”, Mello Music Group and the D.M.V. is once again, “back with that grit”! “Behind The Scale” is a damn solid 4 outta’ 5 mics!