Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Finale: A Pipe Dream and a Promise (Album Review)
While Detroit may be a struggling city on some accounts (economists, the auto industry, Barack Obama), their hip-hop scene has been on a creative high for the past year now. The Motor City (and surrounding areas throughout Michigan) is churning out high-caliber rappers and producers at a rate unparalleled by any other region in America. While artists like Black Milk and Elzhi were the kings of the underground in 2008, and a certain legendary white-skinned rapper is presently experiencing a monumental resurgence of sorts, Finale is next in the line of promising emcees helping solidify Detroit’s claim as hip-hop’s epicenter of the moment.
Finale worked for years in Detroit’s auto industry before finally catching his break in hip-hop: Meeting J Dilla. Since then, rapping has been his full-time career. Although Finale released a noteworthy album in 2007 with producer Spier 1200, titled Develop, he considers his latest solo LP, A Pipe Dream and a Promise, to be his proper debut work. This is none more apparent than on the album’s opening track, “Arrival.” Finale rides a drum-heavy beat backed by some squeaky synthesizers, announcing his presence in both Detroit and the national rap scene.
Finale’s flow takes a bit of getting used to. He seldom uses the same rhyme for more than four bars, and often switches up rhymes mid-line. However, after hearing a couple of songs, his baritone delivery changes from sounding off-kilter to deft and comfortable. His raps come relentlessly, with a brash yet composed sense of confidence and control on the mic, especially on the Black Milk-produced — and aptly titled — “One Man Show.”
Furthermore, Finale has no problem assessing personal beliefs or topics in his songs. “Pay Attention” evaluates the difficulty of gaining notice in an especially flooded rap game, where everyone thinks that they are the “next big thing.” “Issues,” on which Finale raps uptempo over a mellow, Dimlite-produced beat, is a melancholy admittance of certain struggles in Finale’s life. “Brother’s Keeper” features a bouncy beat from Nottz, yet an intimate message from Finale to his sibling. He manages to strike an impressive balance between heartfelt lyricism and overall listenability.
Lastly, Finale makes a point of keeping Detroit at the forefront of the album. “Motor Music” is the second song on A Pipe Dream and a Promise that Black Milk produced, and highlights Finale spitting some of the city’s finest braggadocio. He also gets beats from Detroit stalwart Ta’Raach (“The Reason”) and the immortal J Dilla (“Heat”). The album closes on a sentiment of remembrance, though, as Finale proclaims his respects and shows tinges of sorrow on the Flying Lotus-assisted “Paid Homage (R.I.P. J Dilla).”
Although A Pipe Dream and a Promise is not without its flaws, it marks the official arrival of yet another truly gifted artist from Detroit. Featuring an incredibly song production lineup for a “debut” album, the release is a polished-sounding product from start to finish. Finale, in following his dreams and pursuing a career in rap, reminds us once again that Detroit is a stronghold for much of the best hip-hop being created today; he will be an artist to follow for years to come.