When 88-Keys was retelling his story of how Kanye West called The Death of Adam the best album since Late Registration, the response was pretty skeptical. However, much to Mr. West’s foreshadowing, the producer/rapper has created a project that is a surprisingly cohesive, high quality concept album that may be the most hilarious effort since De La Soul rapped about their own demise.
The concept is simple enough- guy needs some action, meets a woman, things fall apart. Keys, though, tells the classic story by tackling topics not too common on a Hip-Hop album. Just check the laugh-out-loud opening track, “Morning Wood” with “the morning good/start off on the right foot when she takes care of the morning wood.” By the time DOA advances to the first single “Stay Up! (Viagra),” it’s obvious that this isn’t standard “boy meets girl” fare.
88-Keys excels at constructing a tight narrative, making Death of Adam a true concept album. He enlists the help of fellow comic MCs Phonte and Redman to drive the story through their lyrical skill on “Close Call” and “Burning Bush” respectively, with Redman especially displaying his old outrageous wit. To tie together each song, Keys utilizes a female narrator that adds a few words at the end of each track. Her anecdotes are entertaining and short enough that they don’t detract from the flow of the album. While she speaks, 88-Keys strips down the production and lives up to his namesake by mimicking the original beat via piano.
Keys’ maestro qualities don’t end there. Expertly chopped up samples and live instrumentation combine to make each track an eventful chapter in Adam’s story. Just listen to the vibrant sample on “(Awww Man) Round 2?” or the luscious horns on “Handcuff Em’.” 88-Keys is a producer extraordinaire and he shows off this ability all album long.
Being relatively new to the limelight with a heavy co-sign from Mr. West is sure to bring about a number of comparisons. One similarity is their shared penchant for questionable, sometimes corny bars. Listening to him spit is very similar to the experience of listening to College Dropout as most lines are superb, but a few “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/don’t she know that I’m H to the A-R-D” type clunkers slip through. 88-Keys’ insistence on spitting through a megaphone is also a grating effect. Finally, “Dirty Peaches” is the only clear miss track on the album as J*Davey drops in for an unneeded lullaby. Cutting that track down to a minute or two would go a long way to keeping up the album’s momentum.
These are only minor gripes as The Death of Adam is quietly one of the best albums of the year. At roughly 45 minutes, the album plays out like an episode of a sitcom, equipped with laughs, blunders and genuine high-quality music. Yes, Adam may be dead, but 88-Keys has finally arrived.
Get familiar with 88-Keys – Adam’s Case Files Mixtape