The Austin Chronicle

Spotlight: Mr. Lif

Venue, midnight

By Christopher Coletti, March 14, 2003, Music

Sporting more question marks than the Riddler, Mr. Lif doesn't attempt to answer. His are hard queries. With an old-school flow, this Boston-bred MC fathoms the burdens of things that don't add up, those that do, and his I Phantom that lies between. Critical of America's education system, foreign policy, and media, the perceptive MC spews crisp punch lines that build a case for first-person propaganda by breaking down simple facts.

After a spectacular Biz 3 showcase at SXSW 02, sharing the stage with his new Def Jux labelmates Aesop Rock, El-P, and RJD2, he moved from Boston into the El-Producto studio to drop his first two albums in one year. Live at the Middle East was the war-torn, hard-drummed leadoff to the ensuing I Phantom, an analytical role-playing game starring the average insignificant spoke in the workforce wheel. On Phantom's "Live From the Plantation," Lif cynically summarizes over a cosmic beatbox the sorry state of a cyclical capitalist system:

"We're all being murdered by a similar process, whether you work at the candy store or slave at the office, the purpose of our life is to serve the economy. They misinform our minds to paint a picture of harmony, but if you're listening, you know that shit's out of tune, 'cause our life is just to work and consume."

Sometimes everything is not all good, and Mr. Lif tells it the way it is. Backed by clunky, def, bassed-out beats, he tackles hard topics, fries some big fish, and has had a huge year doing it. The Perceptionist explains.

"That which we're willing to accept every day as our task makes us who we are," explains Lif. "I thought it was time for a real critical analysis of what we all do every day, 'cause if we're unaware, then we all feel so divided that no one's willing to reach out or talk to anyone else in fear the next guy is a terrorist.

"But in reality, we're all 'Live From the Plantation.'"

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