The Underachievers are a psychedelic hip-hop duo consisting of Issa Gold and AKTHESAVIOR. Their sound is reminiscent of ‘90s boom-bap but also contains trap and cloud rap influences. In 2015, the pair released their incredibly conceptual album Evermore: The Art of Duality. Apart from having some of the best artwork in rap history, it is arguably a modern classic. Their latest release, Renaissance, is not nearly as conceptual, although it is a quality follow up.
This time around the pairs focuses more on their ability as emcees rather than an overarching concept. The album’s title is a bit misleading, though, considering how similar it is sonically to previous Underachievers’ projects.
Of the two emcees, AK has always been the most talented from a technical perspective, whereas Issa has had the more compelling personality. This album appears to be a renaissance of sorts for Issa because he is now able to compete with AK on tracks. Issa’s verse on “Gotham Nights” shows his enhanced ability to count his syllables as well his use of the machine gun flow. But while he has improved overall, Issa still has moments of sloppy flow and bad syllable count across the album; for instance, on “Phoenix Feathers.” AK, on the other hand, is at the top of his game throughout the album. His breath control is perfect, and his use of the machine gun flow is unparalleled.
The production here retains the classic Underachievers’ sound of ‘90s boom-bap with an atmospheric and drug-induced twist. The most exciting tracks on the album are the ones helmed by up-and-coming producer Ronny J. He gained notoriety for producing Denzel Curry’s stellar album Imperial and has since linked up with The Underachievers on a few occasions. His simple trap instrumentals complement the pair’s flows well and have resulted in some amazing bangers. He produces three tracks: “Crescendo,” “Any Day,” and “Head Right,” all of which are highlights.
What really breaks this album’s cohesion is the many poor transitions between tracks. The worst example of this is the transition from “How We Roll” into “Kiss the Sky.” The previous track fades out and then the next track jumps right into the verse. There was a poor job done mixing this track too, because the vocal levels are far too loud and it is near-deafening if listening with headphones.
The pair rarely features other artists but for some reason, they allowed a vocalist named Mello on two tracks—“Saint Paul” and “Break the System”—both of which are a tad forgettable. While there is nothing wrong with her singing, it does not really fit with the tracks. Overall, she has a negative effect on the album, and it would have been better without any features.
While not as refined as the pair’s previous album, Renaissance is still an enjoyable listen with many highlights. AK and Issa have both shown great ability as emcees, but unfortunately, they were not very effective at bringing together a concise concept. That being said, The Underachievers are a fantastic duo with loads of untapped potential. If anything, Renaissance is just a stepping stone on the route to their destiny.
(Feature Image: RPM MSC)