The Perceptionists
w/Grayskul, Kaboom and Evil G
Sun May 8, Chop Suey, 5:30 pm, $12.

It feels like an unjust claim to make against a record this propulsively pleasurable, but the most immediately striking thing about Black Dialogue, the debut full-length album by Boston-based hiphop trio the Perceptionists, is how smart it is. "Well-crafted," the record's 12 compositions will invariably be labeled, but canny artistry--the intricate chemistry of double frontmen Mr. Lif and Akrobatik, the routine wrangling of huge ideas into smooth, lyrical dynamite--accounts for only half the group's brilliance. The rest comes from the men themselves, each of whom has applied himself to impressive effect elsewhere--Lif on his 2002 classic I, Phantom, Akrobatik on his 2003 debut Balance, DJ Fakts One on both and more--and each of whom boasts unprecedented focus and power here.

Aside from the comic-book monikers, Lif and Akrobatik are two of the most human rappers ever: no grandstanding personas, no back-from-the-dead-with-50-bulletholes self-mythologizing, just two life-sized supermen whose engagement with the world guarantees their anger but whose lived-in wisdom drives each to carve out places of happiness in a world doomed to keep the conscious furious.

When it comes to staying sane while staying angry, wit is the smart man's secret weapon, and the Perceptionists deploy it beautifully, most hilariously on Black Dialogue's thug-busting "Career Finders," which finds Lif, Ak, and guest Humpty Hump steering the pro boasters, bitch-pimpers, and drama queens stinking up hiphop toward more suitable employment. After a few good jokes (gun thugs on the Iraqi frontlines, cheese-flaunters on Wall Street), they go for the jugular: "Gotta give it to you--when it comes to hard, you're the hardest/We're just not sure if you're an artist."

But the album's de facto centerpiece is "Memorial Day," the 2004 single that lucidly calls bullshit on Operation Iraqi Freedom over a radio-ready beat. After a strong opening verse from Lif, Akrobatik takes over for verse two; assuming the persona of a deployed U.S. trooper, Akrobatik drives his verse to its stunning, final twist, capturing the defiant pride of a soldier locked in a trumped-up war and spinning this new wartime classic out of Air America territory and onto the plateau of the best art.

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