Before Taxes is yU’s answer to hip-hop fans’ cry for a return to real hip-hop. The artist describes hip-hop’s golden era of boom-bap greatness as being akin to one’s personal finances… before taxes, that is. With watered-down commercial rap eating away at the cultural wallets of hip-hop fans worldwide, with his new album the DMV MC looks to take great strides at filling his listeners’ pockets with a rich cultural currency.
The album is an exciting step forward for yU. After helping put the Washington DC/Maryland hip-hop scene back on the map with the seminal Diamond District album In The Ruff, the celebrated emcee has a lot to live up to. “Before Taxes is different than In The Ruff in a lot of ways,” says yU. “I’ve been told that the sound is more mellow or experimental at times. There’s different subject matter and approach to the rhymes.” While perfectly capable of flooring listeners without his Diamond District crew, yU brings a few other friends along to help turn up the heat. Underground hero Grap Luva appears on “Brainwash,” a cautionary tale of the ills that befall urban life, while appearances by Bilal Salaam, EyeQ, ERK, Omun, Op Swamp 81, Finale and yU’s partner in rhyme from The 1978ers, SlimKat round out the remainder of the album.
In the spirit of evolving as a multi-faceted talent, yU took on the lion’s share of the work behind the boards for Before Taxes, including producing the only completely instrumental track on the album. “I produced half of [the album], recorded and mixed all but one, and, along with Slimkat, was in total control of the direction of the project,” explains yU. Bilal Salaam, Isabella Banneker and Kev Brown were also on hand to provide beats for Before Taxes, while Diamond District member Oddisee’s lush production provided the soundscape for “Native,” a track that seamlessly fuses heartfelt classic soul with yU’s thoughtful delivery and Native American-influenced rhymes. Before Taxes will serve as one of two releases for yU in 2010, with a follow up solo full-length, TheEARN, scheduled for a fall release.