Little MASE’s flow moves at a dizzying pace on the hyper-kinetic, hyper-articulate wordplay-filled narratives of “Where You Been”. The album title, itself a reference to the long gestation time of music itself, explores a whole slew of different styles. All rooted deep within hip-hop’s history, he incorporates old school and contemporary sounds, blending them together into a distinct approach that is uniquely his own. Boom bap, trap, and other styles are filtered through his original highly creative rhyme schemes that add to the fully engrossing quality of the work. Best taken in as a singular whole, the album is a trip in the truest sense of the word, for he brings a kaleidoscopic array into the singular swirling mix.
His fast pace recalls a bit of Busta Rhymes for his sheer speed and ability to balance the lyricism feels outright poignant. The dexterity and sheer word choice bring to mind the PhD like flows of MC Paul Barman in terms of the great array of topics explored within the pieces, that have both a very real in the moment aspect as well as a reflective stance. Finally, the production itself, which goes from crystal clear to outright industrial assault to jazz-like, incorporates lessons learned from A Tribe Called Quest, as there is a spirit of community that helps to tie the whole thing together.
Tension runs through the album opener “Clocks Ticking (Prod. Turc)” where the mood is setup just right. A jazzy kick takes hold over the sly classic sound of “Born Loser (Prod. Dr. Cuess)” for the entirety of the track has an unhinged aspect to it, one of self-loathing and chaos. With “Eyes Open (Prod. JJ Beats)” there is a bit of sunshine that filters in through, for a spirit of triumph permeates the journey. Reflection reigns supreme over the thoughtful “Time After Time”. With a pure rebelliousness to it the aptly named “Fuck The Mainstream Ft ShysT (Prod. Limit Beats)” has an anti-establishment anthem to it. Nervous energy destabilizes “Fear Bars Ft ShysT & Heavyset (Prod. 123indaplacetobe)” as the song flirts with outright collapse. Careful deliberate tempos enter into the equation on the playfully named “Lyrical Rogaine Ft DJ Artic (Prod. Jay Pluss)”. Glitched-up hip-hop pours out of “A Milli Freeverse Ft Heavyset”. On “Love Donor Ft. TRiiNH” a bit out of leftfield the tenderness of the piece offers a bit of light into the set. Pure swagger reminiscent of J Dilla’s beat smith work adds to the triumph of “Doing This”.
“Sharpen Your Sword (Prod. Warmur)” bounces off the walls. Lyrics cut to the bone on the intense “Flatline (Prod. Lifeline)”. A flexible, ramshackle rhythm gives “Scooterville (Prod. Turc) a tactile quality to it, with the beats almost folding into themselves. With “Sensible Cypher Ft typo & TK (Prod. Syko Beats)” features a confrontational aspect further emphasized by the unruly bassline. For a bit of contemplation “Screams Inside (Prod. VTZ Beats)” takes a gentler touch, bringing light into the arrangement. Highly addictive and by far the highlight of the album everything about “My First Hundred (Prod. Warmur)” rules. Burning through the track length “Light Throw (Prod. Starkore)” holds nothing back. Prefuse 73 vibes weaves its way into the surprisingly personal “Where You Been Ft Wicked Vibe (Prod. Modezartonthebeat)”. Ambient bliss floats on by on the cryptic mystery of “Just Chilling (Prod. Quiet Wyatt Beats)”. “Euthanized” perfectly ties all that came before it closing the album out.
“Where You Been” shows off the deft skill of Little MASE in crafting a unique universe of sound.