Too often, bringing real hip-hop back means sneaking a copy machine into the Delorean. The energy, exploration and exuberance found in the releases that constitute rap's most exciting times can't be replicated, so too many artists just steal their formula. SoCal producer Presto is certainly sitting shotgun in Doc Brown's whip, but there's more to his travels through the space-time continuum than 1993. He's taken building blocks from the past—that subtly neck-breaking snare from Pete Rock's medicine cabinet, OC's undeniable lyrical miracles—only reconstruct them with goods he's found in the future for an entirely new beast.
Presto's third full-length album, State of the Art, isn't a condemnation of hip-hop's current inclinations or an attempt to relive its past, but a celebration of the music's potential. There's an immediacy in his productions outmatched only by their breezy dispositions. Jazzy saxophones float into hazy rooms where MPCs and real emcees trade stories over the sounds of a quiet piano player tucked in the corner. And even as no one is discussing the world's problem, every conversation is completely earnest and in your face.
The CL Smooth-assisted "Part of Greatness" provides optimism long missing in this negative world, all without an ounce of cheery cheesiness that threatens amongst the mere mention of positive thinking. Presto's sonic squeals and uplifting piano lay an uptempo blueprint for reaching towards the sky with both feet firmly planted on the ground. The producer's playful keyboard plucks later lay way for the innocence of first-time flirtations from The Pharcyde's Fatlip on "What's What." OkayPlayer's favorite future of hip-hop Blu lets the night linger into more mysterious hours with "Pour Another Glass," over a beat that puts Presto on par with hip-hop's storied canon of producers...not 15 years too late, but right on time. Presto isn't hiding on a clunky Xerox under his shirt...he's constructing a new machine to be copied by future time travelers.
"Conquer Mentally / On"
Conquer Mentally feat. Sadat X, O.C. and Large Professor
Pour Another Glass feat. Blu
On feat. LOWD