A soulfully honest, personal and introspective cinematic audio motion picture masterpiece. That includes some of the best emceeing, storytelling, flows and production, you can ever hear. That is how you can best describe the newly released collaboration album, Cost of Living, from Chicago emcee, Philmore Greene and Detroit producer, Apollo Brown. Who with that great Midwest connection show what an undeniably great chemistry they have together. That was long overdue and well worth the wait.
From the very beautifully cinematic soulful piano keys backdrop from Brown on the opening track, Consequences. Where an audio clip of a man describing the consequences of living in the fvcked up world and depending on where you live, can determine your faith in life. That for most like Greene and Brown, who grew up in the inner cities of Chicago and Detroit, includes prison, death or poverty. Unless you are able to make it out and build yourself a beautiful life. To the beautifully dreamy and dusty melodic thumping backdrop on, Nice to Meet You. Where Greene is able to beautifully narrate with his impeccably sharp flow a vivid introduction of sorts. To those who may not know who this very talented emcee from the Westside of Chicago is. As he opens the track rapping, “Let me introduce myself for those who don’t know. Look. (Look) It’s so poetic when these words embedded. Philly prophetic. These frail n***as couldn’t amount to my measurements. I measured it and what it takes to be today’s king. And half of these n***as only can account for what a peasant is. Who want to bet? I bet the kids. My only approach is being much better than the best there is.” As well as, “This ain’t rap. This is audio warfare. Dynethical teachings with disciples. The Lord there. Everybody is reeking with the sins we could all bear. Just pray and hope we drop the dead weight. Like a pallbearer.” That then perfectly seguing into the beautifully thumping drums backdrop and standout, Keep Goin’. Where Greene so vividly, but beautifully raps about the trials and tribulations, him and so many have gone through. Growing up in Chicago. But encouraging his daughters, homies and others as the hook keeps repeating to, “Keep goin’.” The next track, Day on the Ave. Is a more cinematically slow-bearing dark and eeirie backdrop. Where Brown’s very stellar production along with the sample-based hook provides the perfect backdrop for Greene to spit some of his most vivid rhymes on the album. Such as, “We live here, die here. Do the dash and reproduce. Instead of teaching stocks. They was teaching us how to squeeze and shoot. Big in ’92. Gotta hustle cause I need the loot. Need juice. Get some bananas, homie. Squeezing fruit. Do or die. Life in the Chi. Its either me or you.” As well as, “I am from a place where them foes and them techs blow. Your neck glow. Click, clack. Off with your neck, slow.” Detailing vividly what it was like for most growing up in the Chicago streets, but others and especially the younger generation should learn. As a lesson to not follow and do.
By the time we get to about a quarter of the way through the album. Brown provides a very soulfully smooth and immaculately stellar boom-bap infused production. That is perfect for Greene’s effortlessly immaculate rhymes. Of, “The most poetic and dietically gifted. Quotables high in nefics. No hypothetical mentions. Black man. You either buy Johnson or Jimmy Henchmen. With callisthenes escaping the high confederate lynch man. Mr. Greene. My music is made for prison and Princeton.And in between, you either been through it or been a witness. My vision seen. Every syllable that I mention means. Wu been told me to get the cream. Cash rules. Blaze something, swade runners puffing. It’s nothing. I blow and take over the stage like Dave Ruffin.” Immaculate then so smoothly and perfectly segues into previously released single, Time Goes. That sees Greene over the very head bopping soulful boom-bap backdrop from Brown. Dropping such introspective and mature bars as, “The organic times was heavenly. It’s like the whole world is forgetting its pedigree. We went from boom boxes dancing to Hip-Hop.To who got the Aux? Dancing for TikTok. My Granny used to make us go back and fight more. Like if you don’t come back through my doors. I’m just reflecting on the basics of life.” That then transitions seamlessly into another standout previously released single, Paradise. Where over Brown’s soulfully jazzy eerie perfectly sampled backdrop Greene delivers such stellar vivid rhyme’s and storytelling as, “What’s to this inner city lifestyle?The days of circusing every night. Wow. Bright child. Stuck in the ghetto. Lets save them right now. The Bible said the kids would be smarter, but they weaker. Social media turned the babies from a guider. To seeker. Subsidized housing. FEMA. The stress level is high as underpaid teacher. He started early. So he’s used to imprison hit him. Instead of a pistol. He lost his life to recidivism. My man got 40 years for heroin. But Jason did three for a body? So why you want to play with that block for? Buy a truck to transport some goods and commodities. CDL’s. The government ‘ill see me fail. Culturally by us learning. The schools ain’t never teach me well. Are you religious or superstitious? The devil I’m outwitting. Trying to dodge a bullet or a life sentence.” Evidence, who is one of only two features on the album. Adding a pretty stellar guest verse too. That then so seamlessly and smoothly segues into another previously released single, Steep Life. Where Brown once again provides a perfect jazzy boom-bap production. That has a perfectly placed sample of Chicago Hip-Hop legend and pioneer, Common on the hook. As Greene provides some very stellar vivid bars about what it’s like to grow up in the inner city communities and concrete jungles of such a hard as nails city as Chicago.
As we reach the second half of the album. We get the soulfully jazzy banger, Hittin’ Blocks. That is a track aimed at the ladies and grown women. As Greene so effortlessly and smoothly raps such bars as, “Lets get it going, shorty. We could just hit blocks and play the roles of paid full. Seein’ the city. Seein’ what it shows. The scenic route. The meanest out. That’s how it go though. Philly smoother than Don Juan prom photos. Put your hand out shorty. Feel the force. Philly go and switch flows of the illest sorts. I’m way nicer than these lame squads. I do this rap with one leg up. Like James Todd.” That is obviously aimed at a woman he is tryin’ to vibe and hit the blocks with. That then perfectly segues into the somewhat eeirie, yet still beautiful piano-laden, This is Me. Where Greene gives such mature and personally introspective bars as, “I heard it all. From being called crazy. Mind in a fog, it’s all hazy. I unpack ill thoughts. Hoping they all pay me. To escape I used to sip the Henny ball daily. 16 with the bottle in hand. Like a baby. Now I am much older and the fight is hella stressful. Where I’m from, even if you sneeze. They don’t bless you.” As you can see rapping bout the demons he fought growing up in Chicago to shape him into growing and maturing into who he is now. Which then perfectly segues into the soulfully jazzy banger, Free. Where Greene raps and gives several gems about ways to freedom. Or as he puts in his opening lines, “This that hood poetry. Words so beautiful.”
The storytelling from Greene throughout the album is really impeccable and what makes, Cost of Living, such a cinematic audio masterpiece too. With easily the best storytelling track on the album being, Just Imagine. Where Greene raps about a story based on true events about what a Mom went through losing her son. Rapping, “His momma sat in his room staring in space. Empty. Sniffing his clothes from heroine. A memory is just as good as it goes. He was close. Good with the fam, but never good with his foes. Crib in the burbs, but life up in the hood what he chose. Momma educated. Black woman. College graduated. Pops died out in the streets. His name is validated. Through the stories he was fascinated. A kid with money, is now a man. There goes your maturation. 19 with a gun beam and a dream. Trying to match the allure of a man he never seen. Everything. He told his momma what he know. But when you selling those drugs. Its no hypocratic oath. Emotions is erased if you upping it from the waist. You better spray. If not your oppositions let it stray. 33 shots rang. Nine hit you above the waist. The trauma unit is real. Hommie. Imagine how your momma feel. Imagine how your momma feel. Imagine how your momma feel. Imagine how your momma feel.” That is just part of the story. That then perfectly seguing into the soulfully jazzy, Promises. Yet another great storytelling track. Where Greene over the soulfully thumping drums backdrop from Brown. Raps such stellar and mature bars as, “I am taking my blessings and making it work. I was made from the dirt. Birth is amazing. You live it and then you lay under earth. I took the mud and made it my worth. Expanded it to a mansion in the mind. Now it soon comes into the universe. Its worse. American made. Making it through this masquerade. Being Black today is Cautious Clay. With a path to pay. See you can run, shoot or catch the fade. And if you mastering aid. It’s best you never come back this way. Just evacuate. Pack it up. Cashed away. I am from the K. Roots deeper than the blackest slave. It is in the blood. You can track the trade. Traumatic. Imagine everything was practiced in a passive way. Let the dollar circulate. I grew up where the beef got eight Jordan jammed and cats percolate.”
By the time we reach the final two tracks on the album. We get what may arguably be the best two tracks on the whole album and the perfect way to close such a cinematic audio motion picture masterpiece. Starting off with the very cinematically soulful smooth chants and perfectly placed sample sung hook on, It’s Different. Providing the perfect backdrop for Greene’s mature and introspective rhymes of, “Look I move in a matrix. Working for them lucrative payments. Everything I spew is greatness and it’s proven contagious. Philly the plague, I am spreading over eye contact. This is class. Cuban cigars and some high cognac. And taste. Y’all n***as moving at a snail’s pace. Hookahs and vapes. Cheese, wine, fresh grapes. This is the fill in the blow and reefer to Curtis Blow in 81. Shouting out, ‘These are the breaks!’ I need all the cake. The beat on. I need all the base. Hit the gas and I ease off the breaks. We gotta get by. Hard scrabble. This is life in the Chi. Post traumatic before he shot him. Looked him right in his eyes. He survived. What chu’ going to do? Murder or forgiveness. Just think of how many men be lurking with a vengeance. Ready to kill, on sight. He know it and he meant it. Police at every door. Like Jehovah had a witness.” Before so smoothly and perfectly seguing into the final track, Where’s the Love. A very triumphant horns and keys sample based boom-bap banger from Brown. That is the perfect backdrop for Greene to question where’s the love from the streets him and so many grew up in. As he raps, “Whatcha want homie? The pistol or the prophecy. Life is full of cause and effect. Instead of atrocities. Winners and losers, shakers and movers. And low level shooters with dark demented ideologies. The world is after me. It’s hard to stay afloat. Every day is temptation. So it’s hard to stay awoke. I am God guarded, but I’m scared. It’s hard to take a joke. Every day we celebrate, life. The squad make a toast. Listen, I lost my brother to the streets. Let me alarm you. Murdered at 19, was buried in his prom suit. I know the feeling when you get the call. Thoughts like, ‘Did he suffer? Was it slow? I want to go and kill them all.’ Deep inside is where the trauma lives. It’s here. Every smile is fake, like some veneers. This is pain I inherited as a kid through the year’s. A scared man is a dead man. I live through the fears.” Fellow Chicago native and longtime collaborator, as well as friend of Greene’s, Rashid Hadee. Adding the perfect guest verse of, “Jealousy verse love will leave a body lifeless. Bullets to the head from close range. They fired them. Not everybody like it when you shining. Untrustworthy, get drunk. Now you singing like Phyllis Hyman. Gotta watch the ones that be close to you. Y’all was smoking blunts together. Now they smoking you. Went from dapping up and hugging. Calling each other brother. Even had got so close. Y’all cool with each others mother’s. Taking in with family. Came through on holiday’s. When your man winning. You should be giving a lot of praise. Showing love in a lot of ways. This fool wish it was him. So he don’t care what you gotta say. No question. Short answers for everything. Heart beats went bad. Life flashing, Eddie Kane. A damn shame. You gotta watch for the plot. You could tell if a murder was personal or not.”
Overall from the rapping to the bars, stellar emceeing, storytelling, flows and production. Cost of Living. Is a truly flawless album. You can play from beginning to end over and over again. That is a true cinematic audio motion picture masterpiece in every sense of the word. Which grips and puts a choke hold on you from the very opening track to the end and plays like a movie in audio form. With Greene’s very stellar emceeing and Brown’s impeccably brilliant production. That certifies Greene as one of the best emcee’s in all of Hip-Hop and not just Chicago. And should finally put him on the radar as a more well known emcee nationally and also get Brown his own recognition that has seemed to allude him for whatever reason. As one of the most talented and gifted producers ever. Cost of Living, is not only easily the best Hip-Hop album released here in 2022, but the best album released across all of music this year. As a matter of fact. I will even go as far as saying this is the best album in both of their already stellar catalogues and one of the best album’s released so far in this decade.