PT Burnem: Paper Cranes
Of all the many indie rappers in Baltimore, PT Burnem is the one that sounds like he could kick your ass. Deep, a tad worn, and boulder-heavy, his is the steamroller to, say, Jones' wood lathe. Which he understands well enough: "I'm a 10-ton Brontosaurus, and I'm rumbling out," he raps on "Baltimore '09." Similarly, his production is also among the least esoteric of the crew, save for AK Slaughter's old-school party kick. Which isn't to say that it's traditional hip-hop either. Rather, Burnem's palette is bolstered by samples involving a whole lot of rock guitar and live drums. "Oh, Love!" one of the record's deviations into funk, cuts up a vocal sample, but most everything is live, or at least feels it. Even bass is scarce, but Burnem's voice shoulders some of the low end.
The upshot is that there are a lot of snappy melodies on Paper Cranes, and that's the initial allure--though "Cops and Robbers" takes a step too close to noodling territory. And the lyrical trip "Demon Song," in which our protagonist is chillin' in a world lurking with demons, figurative or otherwise, is unfortunately sung, and it sounds, of all things, like a slow Kid Rock number. Burnem also sings the choruses on "Hell"--"Hell has been many faces/ and I have been a few of them myself"--but backs off, softens up, and the effect is totally different. The songs that work best, "Gypsy Heart Rock" and "Fortune," actually work best because their rockness is trimmed; sharp, punctuated beats, repetitive percussion, this is the most hip-hop Burnem's brand of hip-hop gets. And ultimately, it's where he's most successful.