Tame One – Acid Tab Vocab

It’s aural, it’s classy, it is distinctly East Coast; it’s Tame One. There is a flavourful speed to hip hop from the garden state (and the adjacent NYC). Backbeats as soundtracks to crumpled newspapers and burnt out street lights. I can hear the two foot thick cake of flyers and posters on these Newark building sides, I can smell the fucking gasoline…  Tame One is not so pretentious. He constructs vocal lines saturated with narcotics paraphernalia, and his expected self referential status in the hip hop community. What works here is that Tame One positions himself as a mirror for his environment, rather than militantly hammering home his legitimacy. He is removed from the college radio chique (not that they are not trying), and likewise would stick out awkwardly in a room with the camo laden rappers of the leftist elite. He is a writer who has been releasing work since 1994, has seen some upheaval, and reached the end of a few blunts. As much as his newest offering Acid Tab Vocab revels in attacking the conceptions about modern day drug use, he is a “hip hop addict” through and through.

Tame One’s intial work with Artifacts always was observational, strictly urban naturalism, and preferred nights on building tops over escaping to Hollywood. “Ghetto Gutter Gillaness” continues this tradition on Acid Tab Vocab, supported by smooth organ, sax and relaxed telecaster ambling. Tame One must be sitting, rambling off about a rap world that has forgotten him; “I am on the fucking list”. Regardless, for those rappers who have mattered in the past 15 years, Tame One has obviously put his mark on their work. Even the crass “Bitch” is manic enough and carries enough fervour to justify a portrait of momentary outrage. This album carries that dynamic in spades, where vocal motifs work with the consistently impressive rhythm and instrumentals to build that honesty.

Tame One’s style is as laced with the unhinged relish he made his name with. “Speaking in tongues” is his fascination this time around, and is experimented with effectively by a prolific rapper who knows how to keep his rhythm in check while approaching the incomprehensible (this leads to a memorable moment at the end of album highlight “Hip Hop Action Figure”). Early tracks feature fellow legends Aesop Rock and Del The Funky Homosapien, yet thankfully do not become mired with the fanfare announcing their placement on the songs. As mentioned at the beginning, these tracks are hip hop at it’s classiest, going all out in terms of production and just the right amount of grain; however, Tame One himself makes no apologies for juvenile “jizzm balls” and his appreciation for marijuana. His wordplay is at its best here, but there is not a hell of a lot to find in its profundity; he is a mirror, but reflecting random snippets and pastiche. There is a lack of order to his ideas and as such, what compelling phrases make it on the disc are lost amidst the lack of conviction this project upholds.

Acid Tab Vocab is eccentric, true to form, and yet merely a confection at times. Tame One seems to do a hell of a lot of arguing without giving reason to, but who really cares? There is no outrage or vengeful diatribe here; this is a comfortable collection of modern hip hop that calls back to a time when the pen reigned supreme.


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