Brookline rapper/producer Skipp Whitman’s new album begins with some telling words: “A pipe dream is keeping up so/ I may as well hop to it and maybe we sell,” he says, as soft, warm strings rouse him from this waking dream. The tension between staying true and hitting it big has been a consistent theme in Skipp’s work, and he embodies it well: His personality shines on “I Won’t Change,” a cautiously optimistic manifesto where his detractors only serve to reaffirm his own self-belief, not unlike a “College Dropout”-era Kanye West. And while “5 AM” doesn’t quite match West’s brilliance, it tackles its author’s complexities with similar honesty and wit. “Dreams” is an understated blue-collar anthem, while on “Stevie Wonder” his wordplay glides along a spectral organ groove. In fact, he may do it too well: Whitman’s heavily aspirational content, combined with a monotone, one-speed flow, spreads thin over the album’s 13 tracks. More than the lyrics, it’s his progression as a producer — the stuttering thump of “It Sucks Being Broke” and the aforementioned “Stevie Wonder” being highlights — that makes “5 AM” worth waking up early for.
ESSENTIAL “Stevie Wonder”