A hardcore rapper with a no-nonsense style, Guilty Simpson found favor with left-field producers ever since the late J Dilla brought him to the Stones Throw label. In 2012, he dropped in on the self-titled album from Geoff Barrow’s Quakers, and now the MC’s 2015 LP is produced in total by Quakers member Katalyst, a creative Aussie beatmaker who stretches the rules while Guilty remains grimy and gruff. Geoff’s’ own Portishead project comes to mind as tension and spy film music fuel the music of the late-album highlight “Dirty Glove” with special guest Phat Kat, but the opening “R.I.P.” can’t be traced back to Barrow as it offers something entirely Katalyst, bleeping and burning like Mark the 45 King’s classic single “The 900 Number” just got wise to the current trends in EDM and trap.
“The D” is a cold and stately cut that sounds like something Kanye West would commission, and it’s a lyrical highlight for Guilty as well, listing all the murderous qualities and weapons one must carry to survive in the Motor City, just for “fighting over pennies” because the value of life has sunk that low. The only time the MC feels any levity is with a joint in his hand since “Blunts in the Air” (fueled by ’70s psychedelia) with Cysion and “Smoking” (dreamy and beautiful) with Spacek are the album’s lightest numbers. Still, with 17 short tracks whizzing by Madlib-style, and in all sorts of flavors, Simpson’s parade of bad news and hard truths is more attractive than usual. Newcomers can consider Detroit’s Son as a varied and worthy introduction to the man, while returning fans can think of it as his best full-length to date.