Mike Spies is Feeling the Perceptionists, and we are Feeling Mike Spies

The burden of hip-hop began the moment Langston Hughes wrote his first prose. He established a voice that was poetic, street, hard, and intimate all at once. Since Hughes, many emcees have lost sight of this template. However, with the release of The Perceptionists’ new record Black Dialogue, the trio delivers an album refreshingly honest to the art of hip-hop. From the first track “Lets Move,” DJ Fakts One jumpstarts the record with a hard-driving bass vamp accompanied by lyrics that are clearly not an afterthought. One of two emcees, Mr. Lif, opens his first verse with the line “Hard tracks remind me of blacks with scarred backs,” giving a clue to the lyrical disposition that resides over the record-one political, and intellectual.

“Blo,” another track on the record, offers the trio in full battle form. Both emcees, Mr. Lif and Fakts One, come out taunting their contemporaries: “Rough style-sandpaper, meet your maker faker!” Akrobatik’s beat offers a hard, old-school sound, with a fresh, new school hip. The great thing about this track is that it explicates that special kind of cohesiveness that exists when the beat-maker and lyricists are in the same group: the beat in itself is another verse to the story. On this record the group tackles a diverse collection of intellectual issues, ranging from war to culture to the ideological workday. The Perceptionists’ approach to politics isn’t to force-feed answers, but rather to ask questions. With insightful lines like, “It was written in the books of Europeans we were savage/That our history was insignificant, and minds below average/But how could one diminish the worth/Of the most imitated culture on this Earth?” It’s a wonder how the trio’s status above ground hasn’t gained a larger buzz. “Love Letters,” the trio’s attempt at a love song, shows the groups willingness to take on anything. On this cut, Akrobatik lays a stripped down melodic beat, consisting of an acoustic guitar pattern and a drum machine that’s sentimental in the most natural way. Mr. Lif and Fakts One recite lines on this track that sound like an earnest poem: “You don’t even know I exist/But I want you to, and that’s why I’m writin’ you this-love letter.” Black Dialogue isn’t a landmark record, but it is a strong return. In all of hip-hop’s new found glitz and glamour, The Perceptionists bring back what hip-hop has seemed to have lost for so many-heart.