Dedication and dynamics

Check out <i>Skill Before Swagger</i> at <a">

Check out Skill Before Swagger at

Is it a better idea to make a rap album with one producer or to work with multiple beat makers? Anyway, this is the question I ask coming off a handful of listens of Random Abiladeze’s latest, Skill Before Swagger, a catchy sophomore release.

Production, by AdamBomb, is consistently addictive—whether it’s the wobbly, animated bumps on “Inspector Mad Spit” (a riff on the Inspector Gadget theme) or the dissonant, Middle Eastern vibe on “Ways 2 Flow”—but not too diverse. This isn’t a critique, because the beats are rad; it’s more so an observation about tone and diversity. Even Random’s alter ego, Mayne E. Savage, who should be a polar opposite of Random’s at once serious yet humorous style, isn’t quite the flip side of the coin. But it’s still fun.

The strongest moments are the soul-music-inspired, such as the verses on “Hesaid, Shesaid,” where AdamBomb’s production layers “ooh, ooh” samples while Random spits with a fervor and angst unheard on other tracks. “My circle is small / it hurts me to fall into the wrong crowd / I don’t trust y’all / at all,” he raps, and it’s this steadfast confidence that makes Random one of the city’s best. Perhaps he’ll grow into one of the most dynamic.