As I listened to Marlowe’s incredible debut record as a duo — made up of producer L’Orange and MC Solemn Brigham — I thought about self-titled albums. Specifically, that choice to make an album eponymous. Having never made a record (self-titled or otherwise), I can only guess. But, it seems to be the mark of something significant for an artist: a clean, simple, blunt statement of identity to the world (“This is me. This is my art.”).
My mind went there because this record is an absolute statement. I was blown away by the power and confidence of Marlowe — as a name, a group, a record, and an identity. This is underground hip-hop at work and going strong. It’s art-house cinema in album form; the honed vision and vintage palette of veteran producer L’Orange perfectly sets the table for the thoroughly modern, intelligent, sharp, and cutting raps of Solemn Brigham on his album debut.
After an opening track of scratchy samples from early radio broadcasts/movies, the album rockets out of the gate with lead single Lost Arts and doesn’t let up over 16 more tracks.
What impressed me most about Marlowe is how complete it is as a record. There are standout singles for sure (Lost Arts; Demonstration; The Basement; Medicated for me), but this is the all-too-rare album that you can put on play and just let run. L’Orange’s kaleidoscope of beats keeps things interesting — the moods shifting and the tracks moving — while Solemn Brigham’s densely packed rhymes (which flow like stream of conscious thoughts) offer up new hooks and clever wordplay on each new listen.
I am really hoping this isn’t a one-and-done collaboration and that we can expect more Marlowe albums to follow. But, for now, I celebrate their achievement on this record — on my personal list of top albums of the year.