Marco Polo - Port Authority
Canadian producer Marco Polo claims to be on a mission to prove that hip hop isn't dead, which is ironic because he spends most of the 70 minutes of this record getting down with the corpse of the Nineties' New York rap scene. The two make pretty good partners though, and the rhythms and beats laid down on his Port Authority LP are pitch perfect for the selection of artists from that era (including Kool G Rap, Large Professor and Sadat X) he's chosen to collaborate with on his self-produced debut. He proves himself not completely rooted in the old school by using up-and-coming names like Kardinal Offishall and members of Low Budget Productions, but giving tracks names like Nostalgia doesn't help to shake off preconceptions that no new ground is going to be broken here. The cut in question could probably have been dropped from the tracklist and proved no great loss, arriving fairly early on and proving a little too steeped in awe for days gone by, amplifying the fact that this album is essentialy something of an homage piece.
Happily, this one of the few occasions that Polo allows himself to look too far backwards and for the most part the record feels fresh and lively, typified by the bouncing beat and expansive sampled strings of opening track Get Busy. Lyrically the record manages to stay out of the trap of relying too much on machismo and stupid stereotypes (although even when that does happen it's done well - see the hard-edged Speak Softly). Jaysaun's rhymes offer up a thoughtful, introspective tale of hardship and regret in All My Love and O.C. provides a straight-up ode to good times on Marquee. Low Budget Allstars is another highlight, with some cool, taut production work and a summery vibe.
Thanks to its loose status as an almost-concept album, Port Authority was never going to be jaw-droppingly innovative, but it remains solid for pretty much the duration and the production never feels too clean or tidy. While the samples used may err on being the wrong side of repetitive from time to time, the use of a different artist on each track prevents things feeling too stale. Hip hop most certainly isn't dead, and a bright hope for its future has produced a highly promising statement of intent.