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The Other Side of the Looking Glass

Alias

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Album Review

By 2002, the Anticon crew had already been actively brushing up against hip-hop boundaries and questioning the genre's motives and aims for several years, the reason some in the rap community took a contentious view of the off-center collective. The music of The Other Side of the Looking Glass, however, is the very definition of barrier-exploding. There is a jittery, kinetic, midnight vitality to both the sound and sentiment expressed on this solo debut, yet Alias has an almost disarmingly serene way of wading through the mazes of his mind. "Opus Ashamed" with labelmate Doseone, "Jovial Costume," and "Pill Hiding" are authentic — and awesome, startlingly so — drum'n'bass, much closer to Roni Size & Reprazent's groundbreaking electronica than anything that has come out of the rap underground, let alone the mainstream. But then, aside from a handful of artists (OutKast, for instance), Alias proves himself more willing than most MCs or producers to take blind leaps forward, both musically and lyrically, stylistically and intellectually. Rather than "traditional" rap tunes, some of these songs play like knotted post-doctoral philosophical treatises set to airy and agitated musical scores — tracks like "Angel of Solitude," "Dying to Stay," the exceptional "Getting By (Version 2)," "Inspirations Passing" — piercing psychological expositions that go well beyond any conceivable definition of the conventional. If that sounds like too heady an objective for what, in its fundamentals, is pop music, maybe it is. But The Other Side of the Looking Glass without question grows hip-hop outward in almost every way, and does so such that the music is as fascinating as it is challenging and difficult. Alias discovered the rabbit hole, and this masterpiece reports back its deepest recesses in meaningful ways.

Biography

Born: Hollis, ME

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

If he played with the antenna enough, young Brendon Whitney could pick up the late-night music television show Friday Night Videos all the way out in his rural, small-town hometown of Hollis, ME. Watching Cosby kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner host the program and present a cross-section of hip-hop videos blew the 13 year old's mind and put him on the path to becoming the underground producer and Anticon associate best known as Alias. A drum machine Christmas present from his parents introduced him to the...
Full bio

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Contemporaries