It's no secret that Dutch producer Nicolay is a favorite here at SoulBounce. More than a beatmaker, this is a guy that understands composition, mood, and melody. While there's a number of tracks in his discog that knock with the same aggression as some of our more recognizable stateside mainstays, Nic mostly lulls the listener into a groove with tracks that are stripped-down yet far from simplistic. Not a single instrument or sample feels out of place or wasted. He gives you exactly what you need, no more no less.
Like his other full-length releases, Time:Line is musically seamless with each track naturally progressing into the next. But the thing that really sets this album apart from his compilations is that it's thematically seamless as well. From the rousing, muscular intro all the way to ethereal final track, Time:Line unfolds with a linear storyline--birth and death with all the struggles, partying, danger and hopes sandwiched in between.
Kay, who appeared on 2006's Here, has re-joined Nic for Time:Line and
is our guide throughout the entire journey. He is the everyman here,
able to deliver relatable lines that are gritty without the grime and
insightful without being elitist or preachy. The funky "Blizzard"
presents the childhood of our hero, a man born into difficult
circumstances and primed to emerge from the struggle with his pen and
pad. But in the cautionary "The Lights" (with Myth and S-1 of Strange Fruit Project taking over)
our hero is confronted with the industry's
underbelly--the drugs, the conspicuous consumption and how easy it is
to lose focus in pursuit of earthly things. Stokley of Mint Condition eventually comes in to assist on "Through the Wind". Romantic keys support this chapter which yields the emergence of a love interest.
With "I've Seen Rivers," the realness of the streets are recounted but not glorified. Then there's a shift in the laid-back, celebratory "Tight Eyes" with frequent collaborator Oh No. "As the Wheel Turns" is the post-nightclub calm before the storm. Kay is reflective and easygoing until things heat up with the Reggae-tinged "The Gunshot" and get hectic with "Grand Theft Auto," the high-speed car chase that finally gets our hero hemmed up.
"When You Die" and "Dancing With the Stars" are the final chapters of our hero's journey and Time:Line's closing act. By this point in the album, the music has become more experimental and Kay's vocals fold into the beats as our hero ascends. He looks back on love and the events that led to this point with a refreshed concept of time. The story is finally brought to it's cosmic conclusion.
With Time:Line, Nicolay and Kay have taken it back to the lost art of
cinematic storytelling in Hip-Hop. Big, layered production is matched
organically with solid narrative. It can be taken as a movie, someone's life summed up in 47 minutes, or simply good Hip-Hop.
The Making of Time:Line (Parts 1-4)
Nicolay & Kay: Time:Line [Amazon]