Veteran SoCal rapper MED (formerly Medaphoar) rounded up some impressive company on his debut album, Push Comes to Shove (Stones Throw), and the guests wind up outshining the host. Most of the tracks were produced by Madlib, who brings his trademark mix of clipped, bumping beats, soul and jazz samples, and digitized slicing and dicing; J Dilla, Just Blaze, and Oh No contribute some fine grooves of their own as well. MED's a decent enough MC, but his narrow vocal range and jagged flow are a poor fit for the richly detailed tracks he's working with, and it doesn't help that his subject matter is so ho-hum: his raps are mainly love letters to herb and hip-hop, though his rhymes are often so illogical and convoluted it's tough to figure out what the hell he's saying about them. He'd do better with more minimal production, but the mismatch here isn't enough to sink the tracks--they'd be strong no matter what.
Suicide Prevention (Galapagos4), the debut album by Chicago's OUTERLIMITZ, strikes a better balance between words and beats, style and substance. Silence's production is dense and sinister: paranoid bass tones, eerie orchestral samples, dark synth bursts, and stuttering beats that trudge grimly and implacably onward. MCs Qwa (aka Qwazaar of Typical Cats) and Hellsent match the somber tone of the tracks with carefully harnessed anger, swapping lines with ferocious precision.
MED headlines, One.Be.Lo. goes fourth, Outerlimitz are third, Reach & JP are second, and Verbal Kent opens. Fri 1/6, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $14 in advance, $15 at the door.