One of the biggest, most frequent and most legitimate criticisms of hip hop is the specialization of people involved in creating the music. More often than not, if you’re a rapper, you’re only a rapper. Likewise, if you’re a producer, you’re only a producer. This creates potential for a glaring lack of artistry and musical cohesiveness between the vocals on a song and its underlying instrumental. Very rarely do individuals emerge who can successfully piece together an album from scratch entirely on their own, and when it does happen, these artists are usually hailed as greats of their time and are credited with not only being a hip hop artist, but a talented musician overall (see Kanye West, J. Cole, and Big K.R.I.T. for recent notables).
Enter Hitt of Middle Class Millionaire (MCM) and his third studio album, Data Recovery. Not only is Hitt responsible for the majority of the vocals on Data Recovery, but he also took the reigns for writing, recording, producing and engineering the entire album. A man who wears many hats (literally and figuratively), it’s clear after seeing Hitt work in the studio on other artists’ songs that he has the ear and talent to create some quality music on the spot. But can he use his gifts to bring the world a standout project of his own?
Data Recovery is unique for many reasons, most notably because it comes with a miniseries of three videos that is a must-watch in order to understand the album’s message. But Data Recovery also includes an array of different sounds and production styles that will suit just about any listener, which serves as the perfect testament to Hitt’s skill set on the production boards. Songs such as the eerie “Feeling,” Southern-influenced “I’m Straight,” dark “Bad Man” and reflective “Loud” all appeal to different ears, yet each seems well within Hitt’s creative comfort range. Additionally, each featuring artist served as a compliment to the track they appear on, the prime example of which can be found in Hubbs’ cameo on the motivational “No Turnin’ Back.”
However, Hitt’s comfort range seems to get considerably smaller once he gets behind the mic. As a writer, the majority of Hitt’s verses are tight, intricate and to-the-point, but as a rapper, he struggles when his production calls for more varied delivery. Though his hooks are catchy and simple, they also walk the dangerous line of sounding too similar and repetitive. His flow seems rigid and forced at times, a minor flaw that is unfortunately highlighted by some exceptional features, and it’s only when he rides more free-flowing tracks (“Just Chill”) that he finds his feet and can share his wisdom, such as on the highlight “Empire” where he raps: “Now everyday I take a look at what the hard work brought / I’m referring to my network, not just only things I bought.”
To evaluate Data Recovery as a rapper’s album would be doing it an injustice. On the other hand, to treat it as a producer’s album would be inflated praise. The only way to digest this project is to treat it as an entire body of work by one man, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself. Listeners can give some slack to Hitt’s vocal shortcomings due partly to the fact that they are carried by excellent features and partly to the amount of quality he put in other areas. That is not to say that listeners aren’t within their rights to expect improvements, but where Hitt falters as a rapper, he more than makes up for it as a producer, writer and engineer. Where other rappers falter as rappers, they generally don’t have that saving grace.
If you can relate, download Data Recovery and appreciate each detail within it.
Follow Hitt on Twitter (@HittofMCM).