Rappers sometimes have a weird grasp of political history and the meaning of it, randomly referencing moments and characters from the last century without a lot of reason or logic. Examples include N.O.R.E. styling his name after Manuel Noriega, Busta Rhymes describing a member of his crew as being like the Ayatollah Khomeini of the Flipmode Squad, and Method Man shouting out the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
It's not fully clear why heavyweight emcees Apathy and O.C. decided to name and theme their new LP after a complicated time in the history of the Soviet Union. But with the never-ending Cold War of words between Russia and America reignited since the dawn of Trump, it probably somehow makes sense now more than ever. Whatever the reasoning, Perestroika is a very good record.
The pairing of these two rappers may seem unlikely to some. O.C. comes from the classic early ‘90s era, cutting his teeth with a young Organized Konfusion before finding his voice and critical acclaim as part of the mighty Diggin' In The Crates crew. He's never quite been able to reach the heights of early solo albums Word...Life (1994) and Jewelz (1997) since, but he is still widely regarded as one of the most gifted rappers of his generation.
Apathy came up in the 2000s at the tail end of indie rap’s golden age. Sometimes a punchline rapper alongside Celph Titled, other times spitting hardcore raps as part of the Army of The Pharaohs, always with impressive rhyme skills and wordplay. When you look at it like that, the two emcees joining forces isn't strange at all, especially in these post-Run The Jewels times.
They blend seamlessly on Perestroika, and if they didn't record their vocals in the same room at the same time, a crucial element lacking in most collaborations of today, then you certainly can't tell. O.C. is excellent as always, but perhaps the biggest surprise here is Apathy. He’s been mastering a deeper, more mature writing style for the past few albums, and here he sounds as comfortable and self-assured as ever. O.C. might be the older statesman, but Apathy comes across as no less of a seasoned vet, effortlessly holding his own against his more experienced colleague.
The Soviet Union concept tends to wane and drift in and out, but it’s for the best. Nobody wants to hear a complete album fully immersed in subject matter this serious, and veering from it allows Apathy and O.C. to include songs like the heartfelt “Globetrotters” and the raw, emotional “What It's All About.” There are definite parallels to be made between 2017 and the Perestroika years, but Apathy and O.C. keep it accessible by not belaboring the point.
There hasn't been an O.C. album this good since 2012's Trophies with producer Apollo Brown, and there's a compelling case to be made that this is Apathy’s best album yet. Taking into account his large back catalog and rep for making very good hip-hop, that's quite an accomplishment.
Notable Tracks: “The Broadcast” | “Cover Leader to Raven” | “What It’s All About” | “Winter Winds”