Rarely do braggin writes on the mic include references to Sylvia Plath, The Hick From French Lick, “Da Mystery of Chessboxing”, Voltaire, and “Benny and the Jets”. But rarely do rappers title their albums after Ernest Hemmingway lines. A Clean, Well Lighted Place is the new album by New York emcee PremRock and the first single “Lens”, produced by Quelle Chris ,is the mission statement: books are cool, but underground rap shows packed with 90% dudes are not.
Prem’s last album Mark’s Wild Years was built off Tom Waits samples, barrell smoked bourbon, and touring across the world to rap for hookers in Prague. A Clean, Well Lighted Place is the come down from a gypsy lifestyle known to most indie artists on the grind. “Lens” (produced by the gypsiest of them all in Quelle Chris) provides a sound structure to reassess Prem’s experiences of rappers near and far: he’d “rather die a slow death than hear you go next”
The advantage of getting beats from guys who also rap is that they inherently know how to make beats strictly for the slaughtering. The tumbling rhoades and knocking drums don’t stray too far from Quelle’s work on Open Mike Eagle’s “Middling”. Prem’s gravely shit talking is bursting with confidence: “Increase the wattage, dog, you don’t want no parts of this monologue, taste of your own meds like Bronx Tale molotovs”. Sure, it’s a song about skills in an era where skills are the exception, not the rule. But “Lens” isn’t just mushmouthed backpacker-isms tossed at the “mainstream” — it’s a slick dismissal of cornballs huddling around in AF1’s and Dilla shirts. Most importantly, it’s too fly, too fly, too flllyyyyy.