Chicago is a place with many talented emcees and Philmore Greene is just the latest to prove his worth with the recent release of his debut album, Chicago: A Third World City. One of those classic boom-bap records filled with dope rhymes over dope beats that has that classic 90’s sound, but sounds fresh and updated.
Like many of his fellow Chicago contemporaries; such as Common, Mikkey Halsted, earlier in their careers Twista and Kanye West before him, as you can tell from the cover art, album title, and the name of some of the tracks, this is that socially political and conscious rap. Which is much-needed right now in not just Hip-Hop, but music in general with the times we are going through in politics and foreign affairs, not only in America, but the world as a whole. An area where Hip-Hop has always strived most out of any genre. Whether it be N.W.A. and Ice Cube or even Chuck D and Public Enemy, most notably of anybody from the Golden Era of Hip-Hop in the late 80’s and early 90’s letting their voices and impact be heard by the masses. To even in more recent times, your Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey, Killer Mike, Lupe Fiasco, KXNG CROOKED, Immortal Technique and several others letting their voices be heard, Greene adds to that legacy with his debut album. A very convincing masterpiece of how Chicago is treated like a third world city with all the crime, drugs and corruption, but is much more than that with all the good and great it brings. Such as the diverse music, culture and great food, sports and several other things that are not always noted or shown.
Greene brings it all from the very opening track, Reaganomics, where a snippet from the former actor turned future assassinated President talks about the state of the nation. Before he starts going in with this killer opening verse, “We the land of the free. You follow your family tree. Whether it’s IVY League or you trying to hustle D. Murderers breeze in high pursuit for the cheese.” He then goes in about how police violence and living in neighborhoods ruined by drugs has enslaved the Westside Chicago neighborhood he grew up in and how as diverse as Chicago is, the segregation of the city has brought on a lot of the crime and bad that goes on too. You can hear the anger and frustration in Greene, as he spits his fast paced flow and lyrics on the opening track too.
The following track, another sure to be favorite by many, Something Outta Nothing, slows things a little. As over the very soulful piano-laden backdrop from Rashid Hadee, Greene on what is his version of Wu-Tang Clan’s classic C.R.E.A.M., still gets political. As he spits lyrics about all the bad he had to go through in the streets to, “turn nothing into something” and how he feels that’s why Chicago is compared to a third world city by many. That than perfectly segues into the very drum and live instrumental soulfully jazzy sounding standout, Way Too Focused. A very braggadocios record about his very stellar skills as one of the best emcees out when it comes to spitting bars.
On the album Greene shows his great ear for very solid beats, sound and content too. Hadee producing all but one track. Which shows the very great chemistry the homegrown Chicago emcee and producer have with one another, that’s almost like the type of seamless chemistry a young Common and No I.D. had in the early 90’s when they were among the first to really help bring Chicago Hip-Hop forefront to the national scene. Through their own very socially conscious raps and soulfully sampled great boom bap production.
Fellow Chicago native Neak the only other lone producer with his own soulfully great soul sampled production on, Tryna Get It, which features very stellar guest verses from Hadee, Neak and Yarbrough. That has all four emcees spitting such seamlessly dope flows and rhymes that will have you arguing who had the best verse on the track on what’s easily one of the top two to three tracks on the album. The track adding to the very seamlessly cohesive great sound and content of this very great album that you can easily play from front to back with no skips.
Another highlight of the album that some may not notice at first is the very great storytelling Greene gives throughout too. Whether it be the very smooth, yet vivid rhymes about the struggles and not so great things one goes through growing up in the ghetto on the very emotionally beautiful appropriately titled, Beautiful Picture 2. Where you can hear all the raw emotions of the beautiful struggle in Greene’s lyrics about growing up in the ghetto. The very next record, Nighttime Maneuvers 2, yet another highlight that really shows his very great storytelling yet again. With Greene giving stellar great storytelling rhymes to open the track as, “Look I ain’t going to be here forever. So hopefully when I’m gone this will carry you on. I just want to be great everytime I perform. Some compare me to Mike. Some compare me to Bron. Some compare me to Nas. Some compare me to Shawn. Just knowing I’m mentioned with the greatest, like Biggie and Pac I got it locked from the underground to the block. Too advanced to be mentioned with the latest. Ahead of my time, like I just got a drop on a watch. The last two bars is what the people sayin’. Me I just convey it. Drop a beat and watch a n***a spray it. I gotta eat, it’s no time for hating.”
Something else very underappreciated about the album that makes it so great besides the perfectly few and far in between features, from everyone from Neak to Slot-A and FLYKelly, as well as Peter Jericho is the greatly placed skits towards the intro and outro of several of the tracks throughout. Which add to the socially great awareness that needs to be brought to others outside of Chicago that isn’t always and show that we aren’t just all drugs, shootings and gang violence that’s always promoted on the news, tv and everywhere else. There is great to the city as well. But it needs to be shown and promoted more as well. Plus the segregation is among the several other needs that also need to be fixed.
Greene shows his great versatility to spit over any beat throughout the album, but most notably probably on the last three tracks where he goes from the hard pure boom beats like the very standout, Tommorrow to the very soulful jazzy horns backdrop of, Granny’s Prayers, before finally closing out with the very slow tempo and minimalist, great storytelling track, Story of Greed. The Chicago emcee truly sounds his most rawest, best and hungriest over straight pure hard boom bap beats like that on Tommorrow.
Overall Greene delivers a really solid album that is dare I say a true classic and masterpiece in every sense of the word. I know the words classic and timeless get thrown around a lot nowadays. Especially more so in music than anything, but this truly is a classic album in every sense of the word with the way you can play the whole thing through, there’s solid bars and lyrics with a raw hungriness you only really truly see mostly with new artists now. Not to mention the very solid beats, content and a great cohesiveness from beginning to end. The impact it’s sure to not only make here in Greene and Hadee’s hometown of Chicago, but beyond is what also makes it such a timeless masterpiece too. That will have us hearing about both Greene and Hadee plenty here in 2019 and for several years to come. This being just the beginning of what has the capacity to be a truly great career.