Generally, good things come from Lewis Parker; after all, he is 'the man with the golden sound'. One of the UK's premier MC/producers, Parker has spent almost 20 years in the game perfecting his craft and has a plethora of production credits to his name (including working with the likes of Ghostface Killah). For his latest work he's linked with EastKoast, an NYC resident (as is Parker himself thesedays) who's had an EP out on the Blunted Astronaut imprint in 2013 and has featured on previous Parker project "The Puzzle Episode 2: The Glass Ceiling".
Composed of 10 tracks, covering just over thirty six minutes and featuring guest spots from John Robinson, El Da Sensei, Shabaam Sahdeeq and King Malachi (who's also worked previously with EastKoast), "MK Ultra (Operation Hypnosis)" is out on the Milton Keynes-based KingUnderground label that has been responsible for Parkers recent World of Dusty Vinyl projects. The album's name is taken from the 1950's CIA experimental programme that involved human subjects with the aim of developing drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations. The music is billed as "a timeless piece which musically is influenced heavily on the jazz/library record side of things" - so all in all, we can expect a typical Parker record...!
After a short introduction that mentions "all you cats under mind control, letting these industry fools control the rules" we're right into "All or Nothing", which was released back in December with a video as the appetiser for this album. EastKoast is in reflective mood as he rocks a trademark jazzy, boom-bap LP beat sprinkled with that dusty vinyl sound that will undoubtedly have your head nodding.
Back in 2010 Parker linked with John Robinson for the well-received "International Summers" album and the former ScienZ of Lifer is enlisted for two guest spots here, the first of which being "Hustlin' Junkie". EastKoast gets things going with a rapid-fire verse that's peppered with sharp lyricism before Robinson lays down his rhyme. His calm delivery floats over the beat but it's quite a short verse all told. I can't say I've heard a lot of ATL's King Malachi but my preconceptions were dismissed as he delivers a solid verse, ably riding Parker's crackle-infused soundscape.
"... killer army, we ain't Wu-Tang but we BANG on the system!" - King Malachi
"Bank Robbery" is a solo joint that explores the necessity of gettin' that money. It's an enjoyable and well constructed tale full of added 'bank job' atmosphere; the gun pops, crowd screams and squealing tyres that are the trademark of any half-decent robbery movie. "Superior MC's" sounds like it could have been at home on a Rawkus LP and with Shabaam Sahdeeq and El Da Sensei providing the support it feels somewhat fitting. EastKoast isn't dwarfed by his esteemed companions as all three trade verses with an accomplished ease befitting of the track's title, it's superb.
The Almighty $amhill lends vocals to "Eyes of God", a slower tempo joint that feels dramatic (perhaps even cinematic) in comparison to what's gone before. "LA to New York" is more uptempo and gives EastKoast the opportunity to rhyme about his search for a girl, initially laying out his idea of the perfect woman and his quest to find her. He gets no luck when out in LA for a show (she's got a man) and further laments "still on the hunt, organic I want it to be / but that's a stretch when you look like a celebrity" - it's light-hearted, easy listening stuff culminating in 'Koast declared a gentleman.
With three songs to go, there's time for EastKoast to pay tribute to Lewis Parker's friendship and faith in him on "Mentally Stuck" which also sees the return of John Robinson. There's also a verse from Parker himself, stating that "my brothers rep for intellect not the mentally weak".
"I salute you homie you brought 'Koast to the world". - EastKoast
Ade Something features on the title track "MK Ultra", with he and EastKoast dropping a verse each before the moodier instrumental takes over. "Prophecy" completes the album and it's another strong track with a dramatic backdrop paired with those neck-snapping boom-bap drums.
It's a solid project overall; musically Lewis Parker's production is on-point and in terms of lyrical accompaniment, EastKoast's versatile rhyming ability holds it's own. The guest spots all add something to their respective track though the one exception is possibly Ade Something's verse - it sounds somewhat muffled and echoey, of a lower quality than it's surroundings. Stand out tracks are "All or Nothing", "Hustlin' Junkie" and "Superior MC's" (which is probably my favoutite) and there's not really a weak link, thanks in part to the high calibre production. Time will tell if this is indeed the timeless piece the blurb states it is, but given it manages to sound fresh whilst evoking memories of the golden age it might have a chance.
Limited to just 300 copies on vinyl, you can get it digitally for £7/$11/€9 at KingUnderground's bandcamp page. A CD isn't currently in the plans but due to high interest there may be a change on that. There's also an instrumental LP so you can kick back and enjoy Parker's beats all on their own.