Looking over his discography, you might suspect that Moe Pope has commitment issues. Over the course of his career, the Roxbury-born MC has worked in two groups (Electric Company and Project Move) and recorded full-length albums with three producers — the last of which, “My Monday Morning Music,” a joint project with producer the Arcitype under the name STL GLD, arrived in stores this week. And that list doesn’t include a Depeche Mode-influenced remix album or Pope’s unique live performances with his amorphous backing band, Quills. In short, the guy gets around.
In finding the Arcitype, born Janos Fulop, Pope thought he had the ideal collaborator with whom to shift gears from his recent output. The two met while Fulop was mixing “Let the Right Ones In,” the second of Pope’s two critically acclaimed albums with producer Rain. On hearing Fulop’s beats, Pope decided his bright, clean sound could balance the heavy pathos and punk-rock aesthetic that fueled “Right Ones.”
“He had said to me initially, ‘Look man, I just came off of “Let the Right Ones In,” and that was a pretty brooding album. I kind of want to be happy for a little while,’ ” says Fulop with a laugh, seated inside the control booth at the Bridge Sound & Stage in Cambridge. He and Pope will celebrate the album’s release with a show at Brighton Music Hall Friday.
For a while, it worked: You can virtually hear the dark clouds retreating on songs from their earliest sessions, as embodied by the warm synth tones of “Sunrise,” the euphoric pianos of “Rock Me. Pt. 3,” and “Evryday,” a powerful reaffirmation of community in the guise of a seven-minute improv jam. The music is reflected in the lyrics, favoring a more direct and articulate approach over the abstract imagery prevalent on “Right Ones.”
“I think that I tried to take as hard of a left turn as I possibly could from that record to this one, but still stay true to who I am at the end of the day,” says Pope. He admits that recording in a studio frequented by the likes of Termanology, Reks, Slaine, and other top local lyricists stoked his competitive edge. “I want to be seen as an artist, but I also want to be seen as a really, really good MC. I don’t want people to get lost in that. So if I can mix a little bit of my artistry from ‘Let the Right Ones In’ and come to this and maintain that — I’m trying to be a better MC and get back to where my focus was when I started.”
Like Pope, Fulop had to make his own adjustments in stepping in for Rain. “It was daunting,” he says. “There is this built-in thing of, ‘I’m now the new guy, I hope they like the new guy!’ Because I was a fan of it too, and I don’t want to destroy something that I’m a fan of. That’s kind of a scary place to be in some ways.”
After the initial learning curve was overcome, the pair began to shape the polished sound of their new group, its name a play on a line from one of Pope’s favorite films, “The Outsiders.” Then as Fulop was skimming through potential instrumental tracks, Pope stopped him on one that caught his ear, and started writing. That song would eventually become “Bastard,” a vividly detailed and personal story about an abusive father.
“We did ‘Bastard,’ and that was the song where we felt we had something dope,” says Fulop. “Everything we had done up to that point had been very upbeat and jovial. We did ‘Bastard’ and then it was like, we have to put this on the record, but we can’t just throw that in there.”
“I heard that beat, and I was thinking about something that day, and I wrote about that,” says Pope. “It’s not like I want to tell my story in that way sometimes; it’s just what it is.”
From there, the album’s soft edges got a bit sharper. Reks and Rusty Juxx added their lyrical menace to “Zombies,” while “Overdose” and “Farewell” continue the introspective theme from “Bastard.” Fulop recalls, “It was in one little spurt that we got three or four songs that really changed the record, and it’s because we hit that stride and caught that moment.”
In the end, STL GLD’s “My Monday Morning Music” emerges as possibly the most well-balanced release in Pope’s catalog. Like the day referenced in its title, the emotions the album conveys waver between brilliantly optimistic and crushingly morose, depending on how you encounter it.
“I wanted to do a nice, simple hip-hop record where I’m just spitting and the beats are playing and that’s it,” says Pope with a laugh. “It turned into something else.”
The Boston Urban Music Fest makes its anticipated return to City Hall Plaza after a two-year hiatus on Aug. 24 at 2 p.m., where headliner Talib Kweli will be joined by a roster of local stars including Shea Rose, Clinton Sparks, Dutch ReBelle, Latrell James, Mr. Fritz, The Floorlords Crew, and Berklee’s J. Dilla Ensemble. . . . A special note of condolence to the family and friends of Glenn Jackson, a beloved personality in Boston’s hip-hop scene, who died last month at 27. Noted for his booking and promotion work with Leedz Edutainment, Jackson was honored on Thursday night at the Middle East in Cambridge, where he spent much of his time, with a tribute concert that featured Cam Meekins, Rite Hook, and several other noted Massachusetts rap artists, with all proceeds donated to Jackson’s family.Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.