Relatively fresh on the heels of last year’s Extended Play, Statik Selektah gives us What Goes Around, which couldn’t have come along at a better time, ending a summer chock full of robotic-sounding experimental R&B and vapid raps with a little something that sticks to the ribs. Between his solo LPs and his work with Termanology as the group 1982, Statik’s been dropping fairly consistent albums since 2009, but this most recent offering that shows us at this point growth in his craft as well as the payoff from maintaining a consistent work ethic, presence, and rapport with the artists he links with for projects.
Those who would criticize What Goes Around for its length or number of guests probably don’t fondly recall the days when DJ Clue was running the mixtape circuit, let alone Funkmaster Flex‘s highly respected 60 Minutes of Funk series. Without the blustering self-identification at every turn, Statik brings together some artists who make sense together (Sean Price and Rock on the aptly-titled “Heltah Selektah”) and others who come off as random groupings (Bun B alongside De La Soul’s Posdnuos on “God Knows”), while still strategically giving certain artists their own space to flourish. For example, Boldy James lays some reflective bars down on “Something To Cry For”, which employs a soulful guitar that’s mournful without being a downer. Though you might make the mistake of thinking you’re about to hear James reflecting and maybe feeling some regret for past deeds or losses on this song, Boldy finds yet another way to make the listener sit down eagerly for yet another ballad to crime and punishment. Like coke-rap poster child Pusha T, Boldy James continues to prove that it doesn’t matter if you cover the same topics…as long as you make it a damn good listen.
Joey Bada$$, who appears on two songs on the album, is an easy pick for MVP here. On “Carry On”, Statik flips an AZ vocal while Bada$$ and Freddie Gibbs exchange rapid-fire bars over some top-shelf Hip-Hop/jazz fusion. Gibbs is in rare form here, bringing the same heat he brought to his collaborative album with Madlib earlier this year. Another bright spot is “Down Like This”, featuring heavyweights Pharoahe Monch, Sheek Louch and Crooked I, who all seem to be competing for most rewindable verse, with Crooked I threatening to “put more G’s on your neck than a Gucci bowtie” just before explaining his method for eating MCs (“chew ’em, shit ’em out a mechanical rectum”). “The Imperial” comes off similarly, with Action Bronson, Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9″ rounding out the motley crew going bar for piping-hot bar. While Action Bronson (“the rap Scott Disick”) and Royce’s verses are nothing to sneeze at by any means, Black Thought simply gasses up the yellow bus and takes everyone to school at the end of the song, even going so far as to place himself in the top five in case you weren’t convinced already. It’s difficult to listen to “The Imperial” without doing the ugly-face-head-nod consistently through at least the last two minutes of the song and that’s a feeling any Hip-Hop head can appreciate.
Unfortunately, it’s the rookies Statik gives shine to that embody some of the stumbles on this album. On “Rise Above”, Astro and Dessy Hinds exhibit good intentions, which is unfortunate considering all I did the entire song was think about who could have done a better job with the beat. Though no rookie, Joe Scudda‘s services are simply misused on the syrupy-sweet “Get Away”, with a chorus that sounds like a Lollipop Guild loop. “My Time” has the makings of a good song, but the ear gets lazy after a while, leaving the listener less than concerned enough to go back and figure out which of the four artists featured (Black Dave, CJ Fly, Nyck Caution and Josh Xantus) are which. “Fugazi” has the power to grow on a listener, but rapper Sincere starts off yelling “verbal assassins”, a phrase that, in its many interpretations, was heavily run into the concrete back in the 90s to the point it can’t even be resurrected ironically. Once you get past that minor stumble, however, the song creeps along at a cool, sinister pace that’s highly palatable while Sincere drops a stream-of-consciousness flow that isn’t the reinvention of the wheel, but might pique your interest for his next offering, whatever that might be. One might hope it would be on another Statik Selektah project, judging by the chemistry on display here.
While one has to applaud the effort to give some lesser-known freshman an opportunity to shine, it’s the more anticipated names that lace What Goes Around with the true gems…and trust, the gems are gems. Fortunately, the production itself never really seems to teeter from the highest of shelves regardless of the artists featured. While the album is not without its flaws, it never comes off as lazy or contrived. While Statik doesn’t do much self-identifying throughout the album aside from the woman flatly stating his name at the beginning of songs, it’s his production and cutting that are the real star of the LP. The variety is usually the strong point of any DJ-helmed LP and What Goes Around delivers on that without having to staff the proverbial kitchen with too many beat-making cooks.