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Record review: Napoleon Wright II's dichotomy

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You may not recognize the name, but if you've interacted with Triangle hip-hop at all during the last several years, you likely know Napoleon Wright II's work. His production, singing and directing have established him as one of the area's most abundantly creative people. Only a month ago, he issued the six-song EP GIVENTAKE, produced with collaborator Jared Wofford under the name ART NAP. Already, he's returned with a new instrumental LP, dichotomy, a whirlwind of a record that reinforces his productive reputation.

On dichotomy, Wright trades the upbeat, multi-instrumental production of GIVENTAKE for a sound that is stripped-down, focused and often meditative. For the most part, dichotomy isn't poppy or party-friendly. Rather, it's an experiment in loops and samples, and even without words, it's decidedly more hip-hop-inspired than the music of ART NAP.

The 20-track project is more ambitious and measured than a mere beat tape, too. The album spans a full range of tones and sounds during its 47 minutes, diving back and forth between moments of mellow introspection and scattered frenzy. Some introduce only a snippet or glimmer of a motif before advancing to the next one.

With the exception of sparse samples and the song "Jerry Rice" (which feels like a Kooley High B-side thanks to verses from Tab-One and Charlie Smarts), dichotomy omits guests and words. Wright, though, makes clever use of track titles to convey his intentions and ideas. Most are simple phrases—"Morning beautiful," "Diddy bop," "Scat flip"—that bear an uncanny resemblance to the feeling of their connected track. The textured, bumping loop of "Graveyard smash" begs to be attacked by an emcee, while an early-morning, birds-chirping soundscape indeed evokes the landscape of "Asheville." The contemplative piano riff at the core of "Mom is having trouble breathing" expertly recalls an actual visit to the hospital room of an ailing family member.

Such a lengthy project is bound to have its weaknesses. Certain songs, like "Soul glo," could have been reduced to interludes without losing real substance, while some of the album's minute-and-a-half blips would have benefitted from elaboration. "Mom is having trouble breathing," for example, carries enough emotional weight to warrant a full production.

In that sense, dichotomy aptly reflects Wright as an artist; this record presents a thoughtful sprinkling of ideas and sounds from someone who has been sprinkling ideas and planting seeds across the area for years. More often than not, those seeds have bloomed, as do the best parts of dichotomy.

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