Earlier this month, local emcee M-Eighty, whose career we've followed from a premature retirement announcement to his law school graduation and establishment of an A&R firm, released a generous 26-track album called Taking Back What’s Mine, a digital release compiling collaborations with both local and national artists.
It's an album that heats up about a third of the way in, beginning with a remix of “Jericho (Break These Walls)" on which the raps are tight, the beat danceable and the sexually-charged chorus irresistible. “Got So Much” exemplifies M-Eighty’s vastly connected network, boasting guest appearances from Gucci Mane and Shadow. “Hot Damn” features fellow Indy MC Rusty Redenbacher’s familiar vocals, while “The Alliance” experiments with wordplay in a stuttering chorus.
“Smash Sumthin’” has major potential as a club anthem and “Keep It Movin’” ranks among the album’s best tracks with a hummable, shake-your-head melody and Jaceyn Bayne’s ultra-smooth, unmistakable rapping. In a surprising twist, “Cleats on the Mantle” feels like a distant cousin to an Atmosphere song with its attention to narrative and addictive melody.
Impressed by the album, I figured I ought to check out M-Eighty live. The experience was, in a word, disappointing. M-Eighty was accompanied by Jaceyn Bayne (who performs regularly around town with M-Eighty) and a third, mysterious figure who bounced around behind Eighty with his hood up and his head down and barely uttered a sound for the entire show. Energy was high as Eighty entertained with goofy dancing and constant movement - his passion for his craft is obvious. But his un-dismissible mistakes - dropping the mic, rapping over pre-recorded vocals and not being able to keep up with them, confusing the stage for a soapbox - turned me off of the live M-Eighty experience.
One would be a fool to deny M-Eighty of his talent. Taking Back What’s Mine is proof of his skill as a rapper and as a networker. He’s doing something right, as evidenced by his rubbing elbows with some of hip hop’s most legendary artists, management of A&R for multiple artists, and performances in 47 states last year alongside the likes of Wu-Tang, Snoop Dogg, Canibus, Keith Murray, and Planet Asia. Still, M-Eighty’s biggest challenge will be to deliver a live show as good as his records.