Phi-Life Cypher – Higher Forces (2003) (CD) (FLAC + 320 kbps)
Nikesh@ukhh.com: ”Phi Life Cypher’s problem has always been with quality control. The sheer volume of tracks available on their albums as well as their 12”s is exhaustive. The problem has always been that where they can say things once and in 16 bars, they will overplay the quantity and do to death, beat the subject into submission over 18 tracks and three albums. Phi Life have some great lines, good production and some good strong political matter to write about. However they need to concentrate on consolidating their stronger songs and lyrics on to shorter more concise albums. “Everyday Life” fell down for this reason. “Millenium Metaphors” teetered on becoming too much but managed to work, because of the sheer amount of how Life and Si Philli had to say on all manner of political subjects. But did they say everything they have to say on their first album?
“Higher Forces” dispenses with the politics and brings in new rapper Skit Slam to break up the two similar vocal tones of Life and Si Philli. Problems in the past have involved an inability to differentiate between Life and Si Philli’s voice. Skit Slam is now the buffer between the two and the order seems to consistently be: verse 1, Life; verse 2, Skit Slam; verse 3, Si Philli. Instead of doing another political album, which would have been apt, especially in the times we are living and US counterparts delivering such polemic as “Revolutionary vol. 2” (Immortal Technique), they settle for an album of mainly battle raps and braggadocio. “Overemix”, “Seek and Destroy” and “Real Raw” use standard battle rap imagery and each MC delivers breathless verses with excessive lines and easy similes and metaphors to big themselves up. Life uses a more ragga approach to his delivery, which works well in places and with the Rasta higher forces concept of the album. However, gone are such polemics as “Crazy Balheads” and “Fat Cats” and instead we get lines about Breville and Phi Life as the last men standing. Which would be fine if they still had something to say. I wonder if they have run out of things to say or maybe they’re holding the political stuff for another album, instead deciding to deliver a straight up hip-hop album. This is a waste.
Nappa’s production is also weak on the album. The drum patterns are unimaginative and the pads themselves do not seem different from track to track. His method of finding a Bollywood or funk sample, adding a two note bassline and looping for 3-4 minutes is tired and uninspired on the album and the production is simply boring in places. It’s only when track 10 “Free” arrives that the album delivers a true gem. Built around a country and western vocal and soft light folk guitar, with an oompa bassline, they deliver a lovely song based on mental slavery and freeing yourself from the system. This is perhaps the only political song on here and the best lyrically. However, it is lost in the 13 other tracks around it.
This is a weak album with a few good moments. The lyrics are too much and for Phi life Cypher, albums seem to operate on an either/or platform. If they tried marrying their battle tunes with their political tunes, they could finally deliver the album they keep threatening to make. They need to understand that less is more and that you can sometimes say more in 16 bars than you can in 48 bar verses. However, they have said they have three more albums to deliver this year and the next, I only hope that their next effort exercises a lot more quality control. ”
01 – Higher Forces