“Let It Go”
A longstanding influence in the Detroit Hip-Hop scene, close friend of the late, great J. Dilla and a talented producer in his own right, Motown’s House Shoes is already something of a legend in his own time. From releasing hometown emcee Phat Kat’s classic “Dedication To The Suckers” single on his own indie label in the late-90s to more recently acting as tour deejay for the likes of Black Milk and Elzhi, House Shoes’ limitless passion for Detroit music and his desire to see local talent exposed has led to his name becoming synonymous with quality D-Town beats and rhymes, whether he’s playing them, tweeting about them, or making them himself.
“Let It Go”, House Shoes’ debut release for Los-Angeles-based imprint Tres, has been a long time coming, a project that both fans and no doubt the Midwest native himself have been desperate to see drop. An opportunity for House Shoes to fully showcase his production skills, draw attention to underground Detroit artists and also work with established figures from across the US, “Let It Go” sounds like the producer is doing just that, exhaling years of hard-work, struggle and determination throughout the eighteen-track set.
The main strength of this is album is that, irrespective of the long list of featured artists, as producer, it remains House Shoes’ project at all times. The main problem with many producer-led albums is that the individual behind the boards can sometimes appear overwhelmed by the diversity of styles brought to the table by their rhyming counterparts, leading to a producer bending their trademark sound to fit featured guests, which can result in nothing more than a patchy compilation rather than a cohesive body of work guided by the direction of one musical mind.
The sonic personality of House Shoes, however, is stamped all over “Let It Go” and is strong enough to constantly remain the driving force behind the project. No matter who’s on the mic, it’s House Shoes’ quality production that remains the primary focus of each track.
The instrumental “Empire / Get Down” officially begins proceedings, a melodic blend of swirling synths and knocking drums that builds into a stirring symphony of epic, bass-heavy brilliance, creating a feeling that the listener is on the verge of hearing something monumental as the remainder of the album unfolds.
After the ethereal vibes of that opening track, the Moe Dirtee-assisted “Goodfellas To Bad Boys” drags the project straight back into the streets of Detroit, with the upcoming emcee delivering gritty-but-witty gangsta rhymes over cinematic production that brings with it an atmosphere of drama and urgency. The subtle “Dirt” (featuring The Alchemist, Oh No and Roc Marciano) is built around a muffled bassline that sounds like it was recorded through a wall from the studio next door, with NY’s Marcberg dropping one of the best verses on the album, rhyming himself into a syllable-crazed frenzy with his usual mix of vividly rugged street observations and delicate wordplay.
The sparse “Crazy” features Black Milk and Guilty Simpson combining forces with House Shoes to create another certified Motor City banger, whilst the short-but-effective “Everything (Modern Family)” finds Fatt Father navigating the complexities of a broken relationship over a simple, string-laden soul loop that injects further emotion into the lyricist’s sincere rhymes.
St. Louis artist Black Spade delivers a brilliant performance on the effortlessly dope “Sunrise”, searching for success and enlightenment over hypnotic jazzy vibes and rolling drums expertly chopped by House Shoes (“Wanna be in the place where they like ‘Black Spade run it’, Like when Biggie was on The Source awards saying ‘Brooklyn we done it'”).
“Castles (The Sky Is Ours)”, the previously-released dedication to House Shoes’ friend J1, takes the album in an unexpected-but-welcome direction, a heartfelt track featuring vocalist Jimetta Rose turning the tragedy of losing loved ones into beautiful music, using memories of good times shared as inspiration to push on through life and honour those no longer with us.
It’s not overly dramatic to say that you can literally hear the heart and soul of House Shoes seeping through the beats of every track on “Let It Go”. His ability to work easily with artists as varied as the unpredictable Danny Brown and animated Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 fame without losing any of his own style and musical approach is evidence of both his vision and talent as a producer.
A definite triumph, “Let It Go” is a strong release that should finally see House Shoes being given the same well-deserved exposure he’s fought so hard to see other Detroit artists experience over the years. Salute!
House Shoes ft. Nottz, Oh No & MED – “Last Breath” (Tres Records / 2012)