File-swapping culture ultimately makes music's collaborative process much easier, to which innumerable albums built by trading bits over the Internet can attest. But doesn't it run the risk of omitting something? Namely, a collection of artists in the same room, generating not only music but also the potential for great backstories?
Actual Proof emcee/ producer Sundown and Sacramento emcee Chuuwee didn't take that chance for The Millennium Falcon, a debut collaborative mixtape that seems to benefit from recording together, in-person. Instead of sitting on a pile of Sundown's emailed beats, Chuuwee decided to catch a flight to North Carolina for an 11-day, 12-song recording spree. What resulted from this dually commandeered project was not only a lasting friendship but also an opportunity for Sundown to return to his first love—beatmaking—and a fresh perspective while he and his Actual Proof partner, Enigma, ready their debut album for the end of March.
The majority of Sundown's Jamla family, as well as Raleigh emcee Drique London, makes dutiful appearances on Millennium, but only Jamla emcees GQ ("Weekend Girls") and Sean Boog ("The Death Star") leave memorable impressions. At times, Chuuwee's fire just burns too well, his guests settling for the supporting roles of humble visitors. Chuuwee's bitter rebuke to his hometown on "I Remember" or his knack for "pimpin' a pencil with a vision and vengeance" on "You Are" are great writing that simply go unmatched.
There are low moments, certainly: Sundown's ill-exerted, smooth-jazz horn loop make Chuuwee's joyriding indiscretions on "Night on the Town" sound like the stalest evening ever. It's just him and a lady friend, all dressed up, driving nowhere too important, very unlike what he and Sundown generally accomplish on Millennium. But on "The Modulators," Sundown—the self-described "Raleigh sycophant"—snatches the bulk of the rhyming duties, turning his frequently fragmented anecdotes into a fancy, chain-link fence to wrap around his own boom-bap domain. It's a building moment for the rapper, the sort of welcome and rare collaborative byproduct that actually makes one of the contributors better. In the end, Sundown and Chuuwee's extended play date seems more than fun while it lasted; two avid rap hobbyists turned a networking opportunity into something better than a mixtape of long-distance directives.