More or Les - Mastication
More or Les, emcee and producer from Toronto and member of the Backburner crew, comes at us with his fourth full length album. As you might guess from the title, the theme here is food. It’s something he’s dabbled with before, titling his last album Brunch With a Vengeance, but that album didn’t adhere as strictly to the theme as Mastication does. Before you dismiss the whole album as a novelty, though, let me assure you that what make the album really interesting and rewarding is how Les works within the self-imposed theme and then manages to break through into bigger issues while still remaining on topic.
The album opens with “Bruschetta,” a song featuring a feel-good samba beat, with Les declaring, “Nothing starts a party better than rap and bruschetta!” In the course of the song, he drops numerous playful lines about party food, and a first time listener might think that this gimmick that can’t last very long. As it turns out, Les has so many ideas that are so well executed, it stops feeling like a gimmick very quickly. I'll be be honest - the first time I got the album, I looked at the track listing and thought that there was no way an album about food needed to be seventeen tracks long. However, as the album unfolded, my interest never waned. This is partially due to the excellent and varied production featured on Mastication. More or Les is responsible for the majority of the production, but he does get some help from Abstract Artform, Peter Project, Bryn Griffiths, DJ Alibi, and Fresh Kils. In addition to the aforementioned samba of the opening track, we get some bass-heavy minimalist West Coast beats, classic boom bap, great soul samples, beat boxing, hyperactive jazz-funk, reggae, and even some pop-punk. The great thing is how all of this comes together, and a lot of that credit belongs to the vision of More or Les and his charisma and confidence on the mic. He’s clearly comfortable in all settings, and he moves well between being silly and giving his listeners some food for thought (pun intended). As far as getting serious, it happens as quickly as the second song on the album, “Consumption.” The song is a commentary on the culture of over-consumption so common in the First World, exploring the causes and effects of the issue. Other songs aren’t quite as transparent, such as “Coffee,” which features a fun hook that will get stuck in your head, but actually goes pretty deep in it’s exploration of the pros and cons of coffee and the culture surrounding it. “Filet Mignon” is a biting criticism of those that are living with expensive tastes, coming with a warning that these material goods can disappear quicker than you can imagine. “Fast Food,” with Timbuktu, discusses an obvious issue, but it’s one that can’t be overlooked in the scope of a project like this. What’s especially effective, though, is the spoken piece leading into the song, “Fast Addicts,” which is simply a personal story about the similarities between our relationship between fast food and drugs. “Big Sugar” becomes a story about race and labor very quickly, and might be the most effective song on the album. This isn’t to overlook how well More or Les is at the fun and silly side of things. “Brunch Again” is one of the most fun songs to come out this year, with a great soul sample, and could easily have been a summer jam if the album had been released earlier in the year. I know I’ll have fun getting people on the dance floor dancing to a guy rapping about his favorite meal. “Chili” rocks some fun boom bap, and is essentially just his recipe for a vegan chili. Again, his ability to make this into a song that flows really well and doesn’t seem that novel is an indication of his skills as an emcee and performer.
When I saw More or Les during SXSW earlier this year, I enjoyed his set, and knew that this album was on the horizon. I also knew his talent from previous albums and guest spots on other records. With all that, I still wasn’t prepared for just how much I was going to like this record. It’s a concept that More or Les really took the time to explore and do right, and proof is in the pudding (again, pun intended).