“Collapsing the Walls”: a brief introduction to Mr. Lif

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[Mr. Lif is back in Jacksonville tonight, performing at TSI with local legend Willie Evans, Jr., Mr. Al Pete and Night Lite. As such, it makes sense to reprint a short article I wrote previewing his Jack Rabbits gig last May. It’s funny, sort of, that I’ve interviewed Lif least twice, each time being undone by technical difficulties. Maybe the chatter was just too hot!]

Mr. Lif surveys the money jungle

Mr. Lif surveys the money jungle

The Boston-based rapper and theoretician Jeffrey Haynes [is] known professionally as Mr. Lif … Lif’s links to the River City were facilitated by the ABs; Lif’s cameo on “Supa Dynamite”–the beat for which was jacked, four years later, for Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind”–helped drive indie buzz for their debut, 2005’s “…And Now”. They opened for Perceptionists all over North America that year, while the illustrious Paten Locke, aka Therapy pulled double duty on decks in place of new father Fakts One. The Perceptionists’ debut, “Black Dialogue”, boasted beats by Willie Evans Jr., who followed with production work on Lif’s second LP, “Mo’ Mega” (2006) and the subsequent remix record, “Black Mega”.

Evans and Locke also turn up on Lif’s latest LP, “I Heard It Today”, alongside Locke’s Smile Rays cohort Batsauce, Edan, Headnodic, J Zone, Dumbtron, Vinnie Paz and the legendary Philly MC Bahamadia. It was released in May on his own Blood Bot Tactical Enterprises, in the DIY spirit embodied by Obama, whose historic victory was, among other things, a triumph for hip-hop’s aesthetics and values. Its 14 tracks are delivered with the razor-like articulation that makes Mr. Lif one of the most distinctive lyricists in all of hip-hop—the kind of singular voice that self-identifies from the first breath.

After debuting on 1997’s “Rebel Alliance” compilation, Lif dropped a series of singles and EPs from 1998-2001, recording for Def Jux and Grand Royal before a blazing run in 2002 and 2003: “Live At the Middle East” was followed by the “Emergency Rations” EP and his studio debut, “I Phantom”, four singles and at least ten guest spots on albums by El-P, Aesop Rock, Prefuse 73 and future Perceptionist Akrobatik. All told, Lif has probably appeared on at least two dozen albums and factored in the recording of hundreds of tracks as a rapper or producer. And more coming—stay tuned!

Mr. Lif@Jack Rabbits, by Liam Happenstance

Mr. Lif@Jack Rabbits, by Liam Happenstance

sdh666@hotmail.com; May 8, 2009

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About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

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