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Music Review: CunninLynguists – Oneirology (2011)

Maybe it's not for everybody, but Oneirology is exactly what I want from a hip-hop album.

CunninLynguists – Oneirology
Stream the entire album for free via bandcamp

I was probably looking forward to this album more than I’ve ever looked forward to an album before. It got to the point where I was starting to feel some “reverse-hype” because I thought I was hyping the album up too much and setting myself up for disappointment (which is exactly what happened with albums like Slaughterhouse’s LP in the past). Not only did Oneirology meet my expectations, it surpassed them. If you like hip-hop at all (and especially if you like amazing production) you should listen to this album.

Kno’s production is generally the first thing people think of when talking about CunninLynguists and deservedly so. I know there are some who are afraid to say this since he got his start in the 21st century, but Kno really deserves to be in the conversation with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Dr Dre as one of the best hip-hop producers ever. Some of the beats on Oneirology sound (almost literally) out of this world. Many of these beats have a spacelike/dreamlike sound to them (fitting since Oneirology is the study of dreams) and sound to me like they’re more complex and layered than anything Kno’s done before. I know more complex doesn’t necessarily mean better but the production on this album is some of the best I’ve heard.

That’s not to say Kno is working with a couple of bums here. Deacon the Villain and Natti probably won’t be in any “greatest rapper of all time” conversation but I don’t know of any other rappers who could mesh with Kno’s production as well as these two can (…maybe Tonedeff can). This really is a group effort all the way around and everyone in the group knows how to complement each other perfectly on Oneirology. Take any one of the three members away from the group and there’s no way this album is anywhere near as good as it is.

There are a lot of interesting lyrical concepts on this album but I’ll single out and talk about one of my favorites. At the end of “Phantasmata” a voice talks about how many of our basic desires are taboo and these things don’t appear directly in our dreams. Instead, they’re modified by a variety of devices that disguise them. This leads into “Hard as They Come” where each rapper’s verse is a metaphor for a different “evil” in society. Natti is talking about alcohol, (featured guest) Freddie Gibbs is talking about cocaine, and Kno is talking about AIDS. It’s pretty deep and I absolutely love stuff like that.

Speaking of the features, all of them deliver. There are four guest rappers (Freddie Gibbs, Big KRIT, Tonedeff, and Tunji) and I have no idea how I’d rank them 1-4 because they’re all outstanding on Oneirology. There are a few guest singers as well; while they’re all good the standout of these singers is definitely Anna Wise from Sonnymoon (who appears on a couple tracks). To be honest I had no idea who she was before this album but I’m really glad they included her. Rappers everywhere should take note, this is how you add a female vocalist to your songs.

I’m embedding a couple songs on this review but they really don’t do the songs justice. This isn’t your typical hip-hop album where you’ll have some singles and the artist randomly fills up the rest of the album with other songs. Oneirology plays like one long single and you’re really better off if you listen to the whole thing from track 1 to track 15 because of how every song flows into the next.

Most hip-hop artists are content with staying the same throughout their careers but every once in a while you’ll get some groups that always look to try new things. Over the past decade CunninLynguists have been a perfect example of a group not afraid to experiment and evolve; Oneirology is unlike anything these guys have done before. Is this better than A Piece of Strange (which I believe to be their best work)? I can’t really say. They’re too different from one another and I can’t make my mind up on which one I enjoy more. I’ll just say this – APOS is an incredible album and so is Oneirology.

Score: 10/10

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