Gensu Dean (left) and Denmark Vessey (right) / Photo by Adama Delphine Fawundu, courtesy of Mello Music
Eric. B and Rakim. DJ Premier and Guru. Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. Alchemist and Prodigy (or, if you prefer, Curren$y). Rap forever reaffirms the rewards of isolated collaboration. Arizona-based indie rap label Mello Music Group (MMG) is arguably today’s biggest proponent of the process (see recent projects like Paul White and Open Mike Eagle’s Hella Personal Film Festival and L’Orange and Kool Keith’s Time? Astonishing!). The label’s next release is Gensu Dean and Denmark Vessey’s Whole Food.
One of MMG’s core producers, Gensu Dean has also produced songs for David Banner, Planet Asia, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and more. As his name connotes, he’s capable of chopping vinyl-sourced samples with razor-sharp precision. His suites harness and modernize the best booms and baps the 90s.
Denmark Vessey, despite the endorsement of revered peers like House Shoes and Earl Sweatshirt, remains one of Detroit’s most unsung talents. His 2013 efforts on Exile’s Dirty Science label—Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid and Cult Classic—were on par with the 2013 albums of fellow-Detroiters and collaborators Quelle Chris and Danny Brown. Last year’s Martin Lucid Dream is packed with socio-political raps that eschew preachiness in favor of the personal and heartfelt. “The Meek,” the first single from Whole Food, is another insightful addition to Vessey’s catalog.
Whole Food cover
Dean’s beat knocks like pew kneelers against cold marble. Crisp percussion punctuates glittering chords. Vessey undoes the song’s titular Beatitude one line at a time. Scripture is weighed against reality and found wanting. Biblical diction is then applied to lessons learned on the frostbitten corners of Motor City (“Ain’t nothing sweet / If you sheep, if you scary pray to Mary in church / Hope the beads on your rosary work”). Turning the other cheek is traded for keeping your head on a swivel. Code-switching is sanctified. “The Meek” is a contemporary epistle, one addressed to people who fear cops and criminals alike.
Whole Food is out July 29 and currently available for pre-order. If “The Meek” is any indication, there will undoubtedly be more revelations.
Max Bell occasionally moonlights as a street preacher. Follow him on Twitter.