Artist: Nyck Caution
Album: Disguise The Limit
Record Label: Cinematic Music/Pro Era
Release Date: 29th February 2016
Hip-Hop as an art form has not only been inspired by artistic ambition, but also by a deep sense of community. Some might argue that in recent years the genre has jumped the shark beyond the point of return to that grass-roots level, and in the mainstream at least (besides the works of Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco) that's probably accurate. Since the '90's the art of the hip-hop collective has been maybe the purest expression of this communal tangibility, and on the East Coast of America New York's Pro Era (fore-fronted by Joey Bada$$) are the most state of the art embodiment of that old-school inclusiveness. Nyck Caution is the latest member to step out with an ambition of defining himself, and Disguise The Limit provides character, backbone and emotion in spades.
Even since Bada$$ started to nab the limelight, the sense of Pro Era as a brotherhood has never escaped the members' respective musical ventures. Joey, Kirk Knight and Chuck Strangers all make appearances here. The mixtape title is a reference to a lyric written by Capital Steez, a now legendary member of the crew who tragically saw fit to take his own life on Christmas Eve in 2012. Individual flare has always been the group's calling card and right from the get-go on Disguise The Limit, Caution provides us with a rapid-fire, captivating and sometimes deeply personal insight into his life.
Opener 'The Pursuit' sets the record's "artful but banging" tone in the woodwork, Caution immediately exposing his gritty New York sense of reality as he spits "breaking these shackles off my ankles 'cause they're tryna define me". His lyricism, as exemplified by 'Inspire The Escape' isn't always the most singular or verbose, but the soul with which he raps is what carries these tunes. Production ambition is occasionally a melting pot of gold on the table as well; the ambidextrous jump from noisy, dystopian boom-bap to more classic, piano-lead East Coast fervour on 'Crucifix' leads into the rather nightmarish depths of 'Basin', which sees Caution at his most unhinged as he raps of the pains of sleep deprivation and paranoia.
His rapping ability can't really be called into question at any point, but like a lot of underground MC's it's when he's at his most vulnerable that he conjures the most vivid imagery. The love-lorn break up of 'Just In Case' leads into the tangible sadness of 'Somebody', which finds Caution talking about the loss of his father and how he found relief in rapping; a sensation relatable probably to anyone who has searched for release in an activity. 'Out of Reach' explicitly recounts the events of the night Steez died and seems all the more close-to-home given the recent feud between Joey Bada$$ and fellow New York MC Troy Ave around that very issue.
Disguise The Limit doesn't necessarily offer anything one couldn't find elsewhere in terms of sonics or even emotions, but the personality and zeal with which Caution raps is what makes them captivating and occasionally heart-rendering. It both fits the Pro Era aesthetic mold and flows with individual character. Again, that's by no means a new perspective on Hip-Hop, but when it's done this well it's refreshing and exciting to hear.
Key Tracks: 'Somebody', 'Out of Reach', 'Church'
For Fans Of: Joey Bada$$, Dessy Hinds