Resolution is the brand-new album from Mr. Lif and Akrobatik. After an 11-year gap between projects for their supergroup, the Perceptionists, and the near-death experiences that the MCs overcame separately in the intervening years, it’s an appropriate title.
“There’s a different tone to this album,” says Lif. “We’ve both been through some shit; resolution was the right word.”
Since the Perceptionists dropped Black Dialogue in 2006, Lif and Akrobatik have each faced a crisis that threatened their lives. For Lif, it came in 2006 when his tour bus fell off a 38-foot cliff. For Akrobatik, it was a ruptured heart valve in 2011 that left him in need of emergency surgery. To darken matters, shortly after the release of Black Dialogue, the group’s other member, Fakts One, left to focus on his production career.
“I thought we started something really special with Black Dialogue, and I felt like we had unfinished business,” Akrobatik says. “When I left the hospital, I thought, ‘What are we waiting for? Tomorrow’s not guaranteed.’ Making another album with Mr. Lif was one of the main things I wanted to do with my life. It really feels like a resolution.”
Although the project is their first full-length effort as the Perceptionists in more than a decade, Lif and Akrobatik have been frequent collaborators.
“There’s a symbiosis there,” says Lif. “I refer to Ak as my brother. Add in our contrast in voices, what we can do as solo artists, it’s a blessing.”
For their album release party on Thursday, Aug 17, the Perceptionists return to the Middle East, where they both helped kick-start the Hub’s vibrant underground rap scene in the ’90s. Looking back on old rhymes and accomplishments, Lif recalls his introduction to Akrobatik: “I heard of him on the Newbury Freestyle sessions and I was like, ‘Oh, this dude’s a beast.’”
The feeling was mutual.
“The first time I heard Lif was ‘Madness in a Cup’ on [WERS] 88.9 and said, ‘Yo, who is that?’” says Akrobatik. “He had his own sound; he was so confident. We became friends really quickly and before I knew it we were watching the Super Bowl together.”
In the time since, Lif and Ak have rhymed through recessions, wars, and presidential scandals. Nonetheless, their 2017 approach still manages to sound fresh. Take “Early Mourning” and “Hose Down,” for example, which open up the album with socially conscious messages over beats you can jam to.
“Lif and Ak were always about a party beat that can get you to dance, but if you listen to the lyrics you’ll realize we’re touching on some heavy topics,” Akrobatik says. “Not only does the song make you want to move to the beat, the lyrics are relevant.”
Resolution also sees Lif and Ak return to their battle rap roots—on “Let’s Battle,” they rip all wack MCs with a ferocity reflective of their legendary ’90s ciphers. At the same time, they show that they’re continuing to grow as artists; on “Grab Hold,” “A Different Light,” and the title track “Resolution,” they both get far more personal and introspective than they’ve ever been under the group umbrella.
“We had to deal with a lot of dark moments,” says Akrobatik. “This was our chance to talk about things. On ‘Different Light’ I get something very personal off my chest directed at one person.”
One person who isn’t called out by name—the current president of the United States.
“We made a conscious effort not to mention him by name,” says Lif. “We didn’t want the art to be stained with that. We now have the living, breathing embodiment of a corporation as president. But instead of doing protest songs, I thought to myself, I’ll turn inward and make music that resonates with the hip-hop community with positive energy.”
As they continue to release dope records into their 40s, both Lif and Ak eschew all talk of ageism in rap music. “I don’t think there’s a generation gap in hip-hop,” says Akrobatik, who teaches a course titled Hip-Hop: an Insider’s View at UMass Boston. “You’re dope or you’re not.”
Ak continues: “Teaching has helped me keep an open mind for beats like [album track] ‘Lemme Find Out.’ I’m always interacting with younger people. I have a class full of 19-year-olds, so I need to listen to Lil Yachty front to back so when they ask me about it I have an educated opinion.”
Adds Lif: “The legends are still bodying shit on the mic. As a writer, the more life experience I have, the sharper my blade gets.
“Ever notice how the older wizards in the kung fu flicks with the long white beards are the most dangerous cats? The young cats have more energy, but the elder can use it versus them and on the low is holding some magic dust he can blind you with.
“I’ve never been this excited to be an artist—my first record in ’97 was fun, but now I’m an engineer … My career up to now has been a warmup lap.”
THE PERCEPTIONISTS WITH EA$Y MONEY. THU 8.17. MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$13. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM