The world has changed considerably in the five years since Tribe One and Mikal kHill dropped their eponymous debut, Two Weeks Notice. The aptly-named duo from Charlotte have grown quite a bit in that time as well, returning humble and reflective. A Calm, Measured Response isn’t a record about the current political turmoil in America but a statement undeniably the result of it. There’s no Trump disses or bars about Covid-19, the goal is simply to uplift and thrive. The swift and concise EP is stripped down and thin at times, but a satisfying experience overall. The low-fi boom bap production works well with the understated, brooding vocals. Some of their hooks are awkward, but the working class spirit behind the verses more than makes up for it.
Track one, “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson” contains a rather relatable sentiment. Mikal retorts eagerly with his first verse, “Our last record had a song called Liam Neeson / Turns out he’s a racist so straight up, fuck him!” The duo, like many of us, have been forced to re-evaluate who deserves our admiration in the wake of this avalanche of bad news. A Calm, Measured Response is very much in line with what the title suggests. The songs are often somber therapy sessions between family. The verses, particularly from Tribe One, come off as weather-worn chunks of wisdom. The heft of his voice is aided by a soulful mindset, more interested in personal growth than punchlines. “Falls Apart” features brief introspective passages like, “ Within the limits of my skin is like a prison cell.” It’s just a shame the song is held together by a lackluster hook.
Honestly, the choruses are the only downside to A Calm, Measured Response. Mikal kHill is far from a slouch on the mic and by no means a bad producer, the package is just a little undercooked on his end. The beats are reminiscent of early 2000’s underground, but more reserved sonically. The swirling guitars of “Drown” provide the perfect amount of tension for both MC’s to pour their hearts out over, his portion being a highlight. The crisp drums of “Can’t Ever Hold Us Down (Jarred’s Song)” are genuinely uplifting, but again the hook leaves a little to be desired. Same for, “Getting Better”, which is intended as an inspirational conclusion, but is rather clunky in execution. The wordy, repetitive refrain just isn’t very convincing in it’s uncertain optimism. Yet, as a whole, the EP stands out as one of the more relatable releases of the Quarantine era.