It’s become too easy in hip-hop to adjust the hallowed demarcation between “real” and “fake,” allowing artists to redefine meanings until it becomes a futile zero-sum game. Thankfully, Golden Brown Sound takes a different approach on its new album, “Great Man Theory,” despite being staunchly faithful to a throwback East Coast boom-bap aesthetic; through the beats and rhymes, rapper NoDoz and producer DJ ON&ON hold a mirror to contemporary urban culture and let the reflected image tell the story. Over a murky bass thump on “It Could Happen to You,” NoDoz lays out the uncompromising nature of urban violence. White privilege is artfully dismantled on “Don’t Be Cruel,” while “African Black Gold” deftly blends NoDoz’s nimble, nasal flow with the beat’s North African verve and crisp snares. As NoDoz says on “88HD,” the group is “bringing ’88 back, not the space and time, but the state of mind.” (Out now)
Essential “African Black Gold”Martín Caballero can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.