April 22, 2021

Leaders of The New School - T.I.M.E. (The Inner Mind's Eye) (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 9 61382-2

© 1993 Elektra Records
Far be it for anyone to claim that Leaders of the New School lacked ambition during their fascinating, far too short-lived career, which culminated on this follow-up to their exciting debut album. With T.I.M.E. the barely adult-aged members check in with their second loose concept album, this time delving into a sort of urban sci-fi mysticism. Obviously, the group doesn't entirely pull off this concept, and ther point understandably becomes murky or downright opaque. The ambition itself, however, is intriguing in practice, and the album is an endlessly interesting listen. Upon its release, many saw T.I.M.E. as a dramatic falloff from the manic, happy-go-lucky charm and vitality of the unit's first album, which had simply combusted in the hop-hop community when it was released two years earlier. In hindsight, T.I.M.E. is a much more mature work, both musically and lyrically, pushing forward into territories never hinted at in the first; as a whole, it's also arguably a more interesting album. In its own way, the production here is just as strong as that on the first album. It's far less loopy and idiosyncratic (and less novel) this time around, often just building off a dense beat and an ominous bassline, as on the hypnotic "Syntax Era," instead of pasting together all manner of samples. This approach gives the album much more sonic cohesion and intellectual heft, however. Easily, this is a much more hard-edged venture into the hip-hop underground aesthetic. The entire first half of the album is a dazzling sequence of songs, any of which, regardless of the concept, could have been brilliant singles. Songs such as "Classic Material" (with an unforgettable horn hook), "Daily Reminder," and "Connections" relentlessly pound their way into your head, and in "A Quarter to Cutthroat," L.O.N.S. comes up with a sensational, gritty New York City and hip-hop anthem. A couple of the pieces on the record's second half don't maintain the same lofty heights as the first -- the album is probably ten minutes or so too long -- occasionally sounding redundant or flat. They are never complete missteps, however, and the posse cut "Spontaneous (13 MC's Deep)" gives the album its centerpiece. Alas, Busta Rhymes, having already fully reached his distinctive style, seemed a bit confined in the group dynamic here; not long after the album's release, he broke up the group and went solo.

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tags: leaders of the new school, time, the inner minds eye, 1993, flac,