Producer Willie Green brings us his latest project, Doc Savage: an inspired ode to his love to hip-hop that’s part journey into the future and part indie-rap cypher.
A project packed with imagery both in its visual display and in the instrumentals Green cooks up, this LP is some serious ear candy. Studded with the big names of indie-rap, everyone from Open Mike Eagle to Elucid to Uncommon Nasa, this project is a celebration of the art of hip-hop. After five years of carefully crafting each beat and tailoring every sound to the featured artist, we are given Doc Savage: a sonic odyssey you must absolutely stop sleeping on.
Willie Green grew up with music, with hip-hop, and he is determined to take his long-standing history with the genre and develop on a grandiose journey. The intro track kicks off the project with full-bodied horns that sound as if they are very first moments of exploring the unknown, and they’re quickly accompanied by a marching drum line. Green is ushering us into the album, with the album. He’s a creative. Next, comes the subtle bounce of the bass groove, gentle keys, and suddenly a crescendo that has us ready and eager for the next sixteen tracks.
The second track, featuring PremRock and milo, immediately shows off Green’s diversity as we get some sawtooth synths and an understated percussion. Once PremRock starts spitting, we start getting a good idea of how much time and effort went into building each track around each artist. He rides the beat, flows in and out of the drums, and makes the synth do the work of emphasizing his menacing tone. Of course, with a tracklist so packed with features, it’s easy to worry that the production won’t work for every artist on the track. Here’s the good news: Willie Green will not let that happen. The transition from Prem to milo is seamless. Both of these artists bring a different flow to the track, and yet they both sound as if they’ve been waiting for years to get their hands on this beat.
Not only does the production come off as thoughtful in relation to the artist, but it also works with each rapper to build these gorgeous images through sound and flow. “The Land of Always” features these woozy synths that wrack your head side to side, and then steady it with the various bells panned to either side of the ear. As the guitar riff comes in and Corina Corina’s sweet voice graces the hook, you can practically see a path to “The Land of Always” roll out before your eyes. Doc Savage is an album to be listened to with your eyes closed.
Willie Green appears to be a master of blending unexpected styles. “Haunted Ocean” boasts another batch of immaculate flows, amplified with the themes of Black Live Matter, over a smooth flute epic. Who knew flutes and politics went so well together? Green’s creative choices are surprising, but they leave you feeling, for the most part, satisfied. There are moments where Green’s variety and musical reach get away from him and end up muddying a track. We end up struggling to catch every nuance of the production as well as the bars on “The Feather Octopus.” This track is the classic case of too much good going on at once. The horns compete with the synth, compete with the winding leads, and so on until we’re dizzy trying to pull the whole track together. Green’s biggest mistake on the album comes at moments such as these, where he forgets to edit himself and save some details for another track. Stacking too many ideas doesn’t become a motif for this project, but it’s easy to spot the mistake on a small number of tracks.
Doc Savage is, first and foremost, an event in hip-hop. Bringing together an impressive collective of artists, Willie Green takes them, along with staples of production and whips everything up into seventeen complex and compelling tracks. For the few moments that Green overwhelms us with his production and gets lost in his own artistry, we have five more where he wows us with his innovation and attention to detail. The highs and the creativity that mark this LP are too good to ignore, which is why you have to stop sleeping and catch your favorite indie rapper spitting over your new favorite producer’s LP.