Album Review: M.i & Tyler Keyes, Pushing Keyes
When artists begin collaborating with each other online, there’s really no telling what’s going to happen. They might only collaborate on a few tracks through e-mail, or they could end up releasing volumes of vivacious music. Tyler Keyes & M.i collaborated copiously on the 2011 album Prep Time; this was done entirely through phone calls and e-mails. After visiting Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Festival, Keyes left the Twin Cities to form a more proximal working relationship with M.i – a bold and wise choice.
“This 1” succinctly serves as the intro to Pushing Keyes, and in four short minutes, M.i spits a narrative that brings listeners up to speed on the events that led to the creation of the album:
“A little bit of Prep Time/and the rest of it is history/I’m just trying to get mine/get ahead and split that shit with T”
One theme that becomes clear on Pushing Keyes is great production, and “For the Win” is the perfect exhibit in proving the validity of that statement; Tyler’s boastful beat is built around victorious horns and defectless drums. It’s the perfect backdrop for M.i to explain why these two are the perfect partners in crime, and while doing so, he lists enough 90’s duos to make anyone my age smile with a sense of nostalgia.
“We go together like lamb and tuna fish/and maybe you would prefer a better analogy/well this is some other shit I thought of while ya’ll wasn’t listenin’/Starsky up on this microphone/Hutch up on this drum kit/so what you know about the team?/Joey on the beats/Jerry Rice up on the 16s/we like Jerry and George/Keenan and Kel/if you can’t believe it/you can see for yourself.”
We live in a country where it seems like the book 1984 is always a reality: big brother is always watching, and little brother is always listening. M.i knows this, but on the jam “Soulcial Security”, he uses Tyler’s superb and soulful soundscape to let people know that he’s not oblivious to what’s going on around him – nor is he going to let it keep him down. On the track “Church West Texas”, the West Coast phenom Blu joins the tandem for a sensational song that features both emcees confessing their doubts and beliefs about religion and the existence of God in their lives.
I’ve listened to Pushing Keyes a lot over the last month, and one song still sticks out to me as the sure standout – “No Money”. The economic situation in our nation has been less than lustrous for a better half of the last decade, and it affects people all over from many different backgrounds; furthermore, it’s likely to have an impact on ourselves and our immediate surroundings. In what I would consider the best produced song of the year, Keyes drops a melancholy beat filled with down-tempo drums and somber strings that is sure the evince emotion from the listener, and M.i airs his grievances about a country obsessed with debt and decadence:
“If you wanna be real we need to end the Fed/they’ve been fuckin’ up shit since 1913/we ain’t seen benefits/and there ain’t no reason a guy at Goldman should be makin’ more than my moms/when she been teaching in the public system/and the system is so far gone/so undone/no one does nothing to show us we ain’t just customers/working for this corporate structure/just to buy more shit from another/fuck em”
I had high expectations for Pushing Keyes, and it’s safe to say that the album lived up to every one of them; whether it’s sampling or making original beats, Tyler Keyes shows that he’s capable of concocting pristine production in any situation, and M.i’s lyrics are stronger than ever. In my opinion, there’s nothing negative to say about this record. These two rarely utilize guest appearances, and when they do, it only compliments the track. I can say with confident conviction that Pushing Keyes is my favorite album so far this year.