CunninLynguists presence as one of hip-hop’s hidden gems is bittersweet. On one hand, you want to see them succeed and gain the recognition they so rightfully deserve. Yet on the contrary, perhaps their continuing musical excellence can be attributed to their continuing lack of mainstream notoriety. The Kentucky based trio has been making music for the past decade and they have been as consistent as anyone else in the game. However they have yet to be noticed by fans outside the underground hip-hop community. Their latest project Oneirology (the study of dreams) is a concept album that takes listeners through a series of dreams song by song to create a very pensive musical journey. While it may be sup-par compared to some of the group’s previous works, Oneirology is still a solid project that CunninLynguist fans will undoubtedly enjoy.
The album opens with a track called “Predormitum (Prologue)” which serves as a fitting introduction to the album by sampling one of the most famous lines in hip hop history, “It was all a dream,” from The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”. The song also contains a variety of thought provoking lyrics, but none more compelling than Deacon The Villain’s first verse that goes: “There’s no light /just never ending night/and the weather’s like a hurricane when land is in its site / the sand within my hourglass could vanish any moment / and I’m trying to read the signs within the symbols and the omens / from the motions of the sea, to the color of the dark / this ocean of my dreams was more than cover for the sharks / recovering these parts is like discovering my art / I wonder as I wander through my heart.”
In addition to all of the stimulating lyrics found in Oneirology, there is an abundance of provocative production. Kno, one of the most underrated producers in the game produced the whole project, once again kills it from the bangers such as “Get Ignorant” to the more relaxed tracks like “Embers.” Kno is known for his originality and his unique sampling style that he effectively displays on the chorus for the song “Murder (Act II).” He flips a dark sample that features a woman emotionally singing the words, “If I could get away with murder/I’d take my guns and I’d commit it.” The song also includes a verse from up and coming southern spitter Big K.R.I.T. who presents political bars from the perspective of a president with lines like “What if I told you that the battle was on / would that rattle your bones? / or would you be down to kill in the name of the throne? / drop Bombs on innocent people or innocent homes / with automatic weapons or military drones / while me and my friends play croquet / and make best on which country liable to fold next.” Natti rides K.R.I.T.’s momentum into his verse as he drops knowledge with the lines “I could use worship as a warship, bible and sword / turn men and women to minions over heaven’s rewards / Promise Islamic Bombers Heavens harem of whores/ for taking a couple of floors.” It’s very dope to see two mindful talented southern acts come together for a song like this that deals with subjects such as politics and religion, in an era when most of southern rap isn’t exactly what you would call “conscious.”
“My Habit” is similar to “Murder (Act II)” in the sense that it strays away from the dream concept, and still is one of the best joints on the album. The song discusses drug addiction via quality verses from Natti and Deacon, and arguably includes Kno’s best sampling on the album (especially at the end of the track). “Looking Back” deserves praise as well. Anna Wise and Deacon The Villain are in perfect harmony on the hook and Kno brings out another bomb beat out of his arsenal of audio. On the other hand there are a few cuts that are more along the lines of nightmares than dreams. The first one that comes to mind is “Enemies With benefits”. The song title is attractive but the song itself somewhat ruins it. Kno pretty much lets his beat go to waste with his tacky verse and the chorus and song structure are at best basic.
For an album about dreams, Oneirology is nothing to sleep on. But as the dream ends, the reality is Oneirology will be heavily slept on. Despite the group’s take on the whole dream theme being uniquely refreshing and well thought out, the album has barley flirted with the attention of the masses and it’s impact is virtually non existent. With this being their fifth album, it seems as though the CunninLynguists brand is destined to reside in the underground. There’s nothing unique about their image as a conscious independent rap group that separates them from the surplus of others. However their sound is one of a kind that faithful fans are likely to keep returning to. With this album the CunninLynguists are neither moving forward or backwards, they are staying in the same place they have always been, making dope music that rarely gets the praise or attention it deserves.
3.5 Out Of 5 Mics