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Actual Proof – The Talented Tenth (Mixtape, The Academy/IWWM)

February 1, 2011

There just aren’t enough double albums in hip-hop these days. Luckily, Actual Proof – North Carolina emcees Sundown and Enigma – attempt to redress the balance with their latest mixtape-cum-LP, The Talented Tenth. Named after a theoretical essay on African American education, the album’s supposed theme is also evident in the titles of each half, The Martin Luther King Jr Experience and Malcolm X Experience, respectively. But do a couple of linked headers constitute a consistent concept album?

Well, no, this is essentially just a collection of 20 hip-hop tunes split down the middle with not much correlation aside from that the production is classy and the rhymes tight across the board. The standout beats generally come from Grammy winner and mentor 9th Wonder, as with MLK- and Biggie-sampling opener Dream. Showcasing the same swirling strings and old-school drum track that made Little Brother’s early material classic, 9th also opens Part 2 of the album with Super Genius, an extended version of last year’s brilliant Good Will Hunting homage, Genius. Featuring guest spots from rappers including Kendrick Lamar, LAWS and Brittany Street, the track’s near-ten-minute playing time is just long enough not to grow tiresome. Just.

Other highlights include Coast 2, a ZZ Hill-hooked soul number which almost but not quite matches the sheer awe of Madvillain’s Fancy Clown version, then another soulful number produced by Khrysis and featuring Bird and the Midnight Falcons in Letta’ to Coretta, as well as the dreamily-paced In Your Mind (another 9th Wonder gem).

Had Super Genius appeared on the MLK side of the album, The Talented Tenth could have been good enough to warrant shedding much of the Malcolm X half and releasing this as a proper album. Still, this is as good a mixtape you’re going to get for the discount price of nada.

Cop it for yourself from the 9th Wonder website.

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