The Best Hip-Hop Release to Come Out of Saint Louis This Year

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While listening, you'll notice that Knuckles doesn't really have a specific rap style. He is capable of penning edgy hardcore rap songs, such as the title track "Take Me To Your Leader Part 2" -- this song plays like the the soundtrack to an epic fight scene between the army of God and the gates of Hell. Then, in the blink of an eye he flips the script with fan-favorite "Helmet," whose instrumental was produced by none other than famed St. Louis producer Tarboy (whom you may recall from J-Kwon's smash record "Tipsy"). On this track, Rocky somehow edu-tains the listener while simultaneously taking them on a wild ride through the troubled lifestyle he has left behind, growing up on the North side of St.Louis. This versatility persists throughout the record: One minute he's laying down rhymes with a relaxed, Biggie Smalls-styled cadence and the next he's belting out lyrics from his gut in a manner reminiscent of Tupac Shakur. He's not attempting to mock either one of them, and the music makes me feel like it comes from the same place of determination.

The new breed of Saint Louis emcee's will have to be hybrids in this way if they intend on surviving in the current climate of music. We don't need rappers attempting to duplicate the genius of Kendrick Lamar and Asap Rocky; we simply need people that are capable of competing with these artists on a versatile, strictly-sonic level. We need individuals that aren't afraid to wear multiple hats at once.

Hip Hop is in the process of re-drafting the rules and regulations that once shaped the genre. Rockwell Knuckles is vital because he has understood this from day one, and is constantly striving to throw the rock as far as he possibly can, in terms of creativity. Every rapper has their forte -- some of us acknowledge this more so than others. On TMTYL, Rocky seems to finally acknowledge that the core of his musical strength resides within the fact that he is not afraid to constantly challenge himself creatively. On this project you'll hear everything from rapid-fire raps with hard-hitting production to a bit of crooning and melodramatic harmonizing. Knuckles doesn't attempt to duplicate current musical trends or make records that will be easily overlooked and viewed as filler. Every song on this project is a portal to its very own universe. The body of music is easy to listen to, considering it's only twelve tracks, but each has plenty of replay value.

My suggestion to all hip-hop fans searching for something timeless from 2012? Check out Take Me To Your Leader.

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