Born and raised in Connecticut, The Protege has been a DJ, a producer, a manager and now an MC on the Phenetiks roster (Rawkus Record.) Recently, he has been gaining momentum as an artist and that work comes to fruition on his just released 7 track EP, Untitled is Hard Enough.
Produced by Sketch the Cataclysm, Untitled is Hard Enough is a brief foray into what continues to be the overshadowed and under compensated world of underground hip-hop. Of note here is the variety of ways Protege gets over very different beats by Sketch. Cataclysm’s production ranges from the dark drum step and militant sound of the EP’s opener, “Provisions,” to the reggae dub sound of “Pressure,” with relaxed yet eerie hip-hop in between on “Sunshine.” The inclusion of some jazz and blues sound throughout the tracks keeps the 7 tracks from sounding generic.
Regardless of the beat, The Protege keeps his delivery flexible, letting the tracks come to him rather than forcing one style onto various tracks. His lyrics stay straight ahead, foregoing typical lyrical stalwarts like money, cars and jewelry for more personal topics like the pressure to pay bills. The honesty is refreshing, and combined with the ability to lace together rhymes and wordplays, The Protege makes his debut solo effort one that leaves you wanting to see what he can deliver on a full length outing. In one of the strongest tracks on the EP, “Nothing,” Cataclysm includes an undulating bass line and funky vocal chorus that eventually devolves to massive scratching as The Protege spins tongue twisters about his effort to create work and his subsequent fear of rejection.
While brief, Untitled is Hard Enough is solid and original. It doesn’t rely on prevailing Hip-Pop trends, nor does it try to paint itself as a champion of the underground. Instead, the honesty simply puts artist and beat out there for the listener with no requirements other than hearing where he’s coming from. It should certainly be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Thanks to Dirt E. Dutch for the tip.