Album Review: The Tongue - Hard Feelings

11 November 2015 | 4:39 pm | James d'Apice

"Our host's vision becomes clear. He is a rap custodian; an elder statesman here to educate and inspire."

More The Tongue More The Tongue

2006 was The Tongue's annus mirabilis, propelled by his debut EP Bad Education. Listening to a banging Bag Raiders beat delivered with a heavy dose of political consciousness we heard the last of the old school, and the first of the new. Teezy's been with us for more than a decade now. But familiarity brings its own problems: ten years, three mixtapes, four albums in — are there any tricks The Tongue can show us that we haven't seen already?

Perhaps. Our hero is at his best walking the tightrope between contemporary relevance and respect for the past. "I'm the last one alive who can kick it like Q-Tip, like Gang Starr." Our host is winking at us: he knows as well as we do that these artists peaked before The Tongue's new fans were even born. Viewed in this light our host's vision becomes clear. He is a rap custodian; an elder statesman here to educate and inspire.

The album's peak is not mission statement Never Going Down nor neat flex track Houdini. It is the woozy swoon Mercy, where our host capitalises on Thundamentals MC Jeswon's talent for hypnosis. The Rule closes proceedings and give us another clue about where The Tongue's head is at: we hear "self preservation is the rule" repeated again and again. Perhaps that's the lesson The Tongue has for us: keep ears and eyes open, learn what you can, teach what you've learned — but longevity is about being true to yourself.