In the final track of this record, the second offering from the Dillon/Paten Locke pair, we find Dillon ‘breaking bread like a bad baker.’ In this line, I think, lies the clue to the rest of the album that precedes it. Food Chain is (as the title suggests) a witty meditation on the metaphorical potential of the signifier ‘food,’ one anchored in a love of the rhyming process and the aural malleability of language.
There is a rhythm to the album, an ebbing and a flowing where the limits of certain types are approached, only to be resisted; after a little bragging and boasting in ‘Thirsty Loops,’ Dillon admits that he ‘never threw a punch but…ducked one once.’ These admissions, or brief asides, appear to be a function of an anti-totalising sentiment, a resistance to absolutes that makes itself felt in a tendency to keep certain things at arm’s length. Romantic vulnerability is one such state simultaneously expressed and resisted in the superbly ambivalent ‘Nothin with Nobody’: ‘I might take you to a place you never been to / I might not pay, I might pull a pimp move.’
This conceit takes a serious turn in ‘Smog,’ where the frustration that has been lying low in the record thus far rears its head. The track describes Duval County, Florida as a place where ‘when the sun’s shinin it still snows on a select few,’ where ‘you can get anything you need if you pay for it’; both statements are highly, reflexively critical of the qualifications they are making, and with good reason: in 1989 ‘all them streets they were lined with trees now they concrete havens for thieves and police / who say that they the ones who gonna keep the peace while they smoke your weed in they new Caprice.’ A reverberating drone and tight percussion accentuate the grim predictability of the county so described; occasional truncated glissandos on chimes provide only minor respite.
But the tone shifts back to the triumphant with the best song on the album, the aptly named ‘Humdinger,’ with guest spots from Supa Dave West and Black Sheep Dres. Dillon’s flows are at their most impressive in the opening verse. An eight-and-a-half-line rhyme sequence encompasses references as markedly divergent – or so it would seem – as Montesquieu, Ponce de Leon, and Red Lobster; I have hardly done it justice here, but listen out for the cunning reiteration of the ‘Montesquieu’ sound. And lest we be overwhelmed by such wizardry, there are some well-placed quieter moments on the record; Paten Locke often employs a shift to waltz rhythm to soften the relentlessness of the beat, and ‘Modern Man’s Waltz’ ends with a chance for us to catch our collective breath before the record’s victorious run home. More guests arrive, among them Homeboy Sandman and J-Live, but we are too soon back with the bad baker; the plate is no longer full, and I’m ready for a third helping.