A shrewd hip-hop fan might have foreseen the Eligh-AmpLive collaboration ten years ago. After all, the two of them make perfect sense together. Eligh is easily the most elegant and creative rapper to emerge from Oakland crew Living Legends, while AmpLive is an underground producer whose increasingly weird tastes became grist for an ever-changing production style. Ten years ago, they stood on different sides of the underground hip-hop spectrum: AmpLive was more of an earthbound, classical type; Eligh was a total iconoclast. Now, by virtue of Amp’s experimentation with dubstep and Eligh’s staying on the fringe, they’ve found a point of intersection that, admittedly, is pretty far from their shared backpacker origins. But their talents are about commensurate.
And the result is fantastic. Amp’s clever, jagged beats are a perfect complement for the sine-wave curve of Eligh’s voice, which, in this case, is the rough equivalent of a musical instrument. In fact, he’s such an interesting rap vocalist that his lyrics often seem inconsequential. Perhaps Eligh knows this, because he free associates on some tracks — were it not for the rhyme schemes, you’d think he was just improvising. Take “Stop Running,” in which he chants the name “Forrest Gump” over and over again. That sounds like the kind of joke you’d make up after smoking too much weed in a rap studio. But other songs are narrative-driven and incredibly focused. “Metronome,” for instance, is about his problems with authority and his occasional bouts of depression (something he also alludes to on “Stethoscope,” in which AmpLive manipulates drum samples to sound like a heartbeat). Desperation and anxiety lurk just below the surface of Eligh’s raps, so that each one has its own violence, regardless of the subject matter. (“Ms. Meteor” is a love ballad, but it’s also about being alone.) That’s a rather unconventional form of therapy, but it’s definitely cathartic. (Legendary Music/Live Up)