by Nick Hanover
Stick around in hip hop long enough and you’ll encounter the belief that “if one of us succeeds, the whole scene will succeed.” That sentiment is most common in cities like Austin, where there has never been a major hip hop success on a national level, and so the scene is constantly shifting, trying to find some path to succees. Austin hip hop acts look at places like Houston and Atlanta and LA and see icons who achieved stardom through a combination of sound, style and swagger, leaving behind a blueprint for their peers. But if you’re an Austin act, you have a few artists who have achieved some moderate success, leaving you to wonder which parts of those acts’ blueprints are worth emulating and which parts were holding them back.
Stat1‘s new LP Fruition is an especially convenient example of this, mixing Zeale’s use of rock production and hooks with League of Extraordinary G’z swagger and LNS Crews’ (specifically Kydd Jones, who even contributes tracks here) abstract digital beats. There are moments of Fruition that stand out as potential hits, either because they court mainstream tastes (“Everything Burns”) or articulate a truly unique and novel approach to the scene (“Attack of the Clones”) but for every one of these moments there are at least two songs showcasing the confusion of the “Austin sound” and thus also highlight why the scene struggles to click with national crowds. Fruition isn’t a bad album, it’s just a work that is so desperate for approval it frequently sabotages itself with its kitchen sink approach.
Much of this is due to the divvying up of production credits; Chamothy the Great contributes the bulk of the beats on the album but Kydd Jones, League’s Reggie Coby and DJ Protege also turn in tracks. Of these producers, Kydd gels the most with Stat1’s style, particularly on “Attack of the Clones,” where the aggressive synths and explosive drums push Stat to go harder than he does anywhere else on the album. Chamothy, by contrast, lacks a distinct voice and personality in his production; Kydd might be eclectic and varied in his approach, but it’s always clear that he has produced a track but I doubt I could identify Chamothy’s work on something without a credit sheet. This is especially true on the album’s title track, a clear attempt to replicate Zeale’s collabs with Blue October that is instantly forgettable due to its bland acoustic riffs and lack of energy.
When Chamothy tunes in to the barbed wire energy that lurks within Stat, he fares a lot better. “No Matter” has a gorgeous synth arpeggio opening it up before Stat comes in at double time to tear apart the “rappers out here who are average,” opening the gate for a devastating Sertified guest appearance. Like “Attack of the Clones” before it, “No Matter” is thrilling because of the way Stat and his guests rip apart the beat, finding ways to amp it up and turn it on its head. The more focused “Everything Burns” likewise lands because shifts with its ebbs and flows, creating drama from his push and pull with the pulsating beat and the melancholic sample that holds it together. Even “Parallels,” built around a simplified old school beat by DJ Protege, succeeds with this kind of juxtaposition, Stat working the groove and gradually increasing the speed of his flow to make the song as tense and unpredictable as possible.
Stat1’s dedication to experimentation and willingness to adjust his sound in order to find the right formula is commendable, but Fruition would be a more impressive work if Stat and his collaborators experimented with a consistent focus on what works for Stat. The standout moments of the albums will hopefully serve as a blueprint for Stat to utilize in the future because they’re powerful and potent and worth replicating. Until then, Stat1’s artistic potential will remain just a step away from fruition.
Stat1 performs October 8th at Spinners as part of Bar Fest with DJ Versus and more.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover