Record label: Warp (UK)
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 1 April 2002

I honestly didn’t think it could get any better than Shopping Carts Crashing (damn shame that album only came out in Japan), but they’ve proved me wrong again. Arrhythmia is Anti-Pop at their most confident, adventurous with rhymes and beats equally. The production’s more rich and alive than before, bringing in extra hands for percussion and keys as well as vocals. Earl Blaize remains the man with the plan behind the boards, serving as mix engineer with hands firmly in the production. Remember when Prince Paul was sort of the unofficial fourth De La member? Well, in case y’all forgot about brother Blaize, his face graces the back of the CD. He’s also featured on the skit “Tron Man Speaks.”

And PLEASE don’t make me pick a favorite Anti-Pop MC: they’re all dope for different reasons. Beans will talk circles around your head, and his solo cuts just get better and better. “Silver Heat” is this album’s “Nude Paper” – with “Earl Blaize on the boogie,” he can’t lose. As always, High Priest is that deep cat. He’s responsible for my favorite line on the whole album: “I move crowds like Larry Levan.” (If you know who Larry Levan is, then you know why that line is the joint.) Or about these verbals from “Mega”? “My brains burst / spitting pure freon / on Celine Dion / scream on cats like Sam Kinison / innocent bystanders swarming / my thoughts forming / and dormant MCs wanna live again.” Though I must admit there’s a part of me that will always show favor towards M. Sayyid. Be it rhymes or beats, brother’s just NASTY. Nobody freaks a street story like him. Check out “Z St.,” in the same vein as “$9.99” from Tragic Epilogue, this time involving the set-up of a coke dealer. Sayyid’s also behind some real creative production. “Ping Pong” forms the boom bap around a table tennis match, and “Mega” features this wild operatic break (props to sister Nedelka Prescod for holdin’ it down Leontyne Price style). He’s also responsible for “Focused,” a track that proves that APC haven’t lost their senses of humor.

All four members can produce their asses off, and they’re in tune with how the music should react to the lyrics. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Human Shield.” Priest says “pretend you’re deaf” and the music gets muted. Sayyid says “his head got stretched” and sounds get bended in pitch. Those are the signs of lyricists equally concerned with how the instrumentals react to their words. Arrhythmia is full of little surprises like that. It’s the kind of album that headphones were made for and that hip-hop will spend the rest of its life trying to catch up to.

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