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El Michels Affair|Glorious Game

Glorious Game

El Michels Affair & Black Thought

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Ever since his HOT 97 10-minute freestyle rework of Rising Down highlight "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)" blew minds in December 2017, Roots’ MC Black Thought has spent a lot of time and energy reasserting his bona fides as a hyper-lyrical powerhouse. But while the skills-recognizing aspect to his revival provides more strong reminders than unexpected epiphanies, he's also been able to better embody the humanistic side of his art along the way. Glorious Game, his collaboration with veteran Brooklyn psychedelic-soul instrumentalists El Michels Affair, embodies this better than anything else to emerge in a strong run that also gave us his Streams of Thought series and his Danger Mouse collab Cheat Codes. You could throw a bit of credit for that to the atmosphere the Affair brings as a backing band: for a certain generation of hip-hop head, their collective ear for funk's stranger, blearier qualities that have been honed from years of RZA reconstructions and retro-cinematic takes on grainy soul-jazz can dredge up some remarkably powerful imagery just on its own. But it's where Black Thought takes these mood pieces, sinking just deep enough into them to absorb a vibe he turns around and commands into vivid life, that makes Glorious Game hit deep. Thought's focused intensity is always good for naturalistic internal rhymes and deeply interlocked referential allusions, but the nuances of his different levels of emotional impact have flourished into his secret weapon as an MC. And the nuanced tone of his more emotionally reflective material—the enduring search for Black joy on "I'm Still Somehow," the sense-memory evocations of a familiar yet often ambivalent nostalgia for a formative time and place on "The Weather," the fight between disillusionment and confidence in "I Would Never"—definitively separates him from your typical lyrics-first rapper. That pays off highest on the album's two most beatific moments: the title cut, where Thought's boasts sound more like self-actualizations than defense mechanisms, and the sobriety-reinvigorated affirmations of closer "Alter Ego," where he takes stock of all the existential questions that drove him to this point and answers them with a clarity that makes even his self-big-ups sound like humble truths. © Nate Patrin/Qobuz

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Glorious Game

El Michels Affair

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1
Grateful Explicit
00:02:51

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

2
Glorious Game Explicit
00:03:53

Black Thought, MainArtist - Kirby, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher - Brainstory, Producer

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

3
I'm Still Somehow Explicit
00:02:04

Black Thought, MainArtist - Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

4
Hollow Way Explicit
00:02:24

Black Thought, MainArtist - Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

5
Protocol
00:02:56

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Son Little, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

6
The Weather Explicit
00:02:59

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher - Paul Casteluzzo, Producer

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

7
That Girl
00:02:10

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

8
I Would Never
00:02:43

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

9
Alone
00:02:06

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

10
Miracle
00:02:32

Black Thought, MainArtist - Copyright Control, MusicPublisher - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

11
Glorious Game (Reprise) Explicit
00:01:23

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher - Brainstory, Producer

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

12
Alter Ego Explicit
00:03:10

Black Thought, MainArtist - Leon Michels, Producer - Tony Martin, AssociatedPerformer - El Michels Affair, MainArtist - Big Crown Publishing, MusicPublisher - Brainstory, MainArtist - Eric Hagstrom, AssociatedPerformer

2023 Big Crown Records 2023 Big Crown Records

Album review

Ever since his HOT 97 10-minute freestyle rework of Rising Down highlight "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)" blew minds in December 2017, Roots’ MC Black Thought has spent a lot of time and energy reasserting his bona fides as a hyper-lyrical powerhouse. But while the skills-recognizing aspect to his revival provides more strong reminders than unexpected epiphanies, he's also been able to better embody the humanistic side of his art along the way. Glorious Game, his collaboration with veteran Brooklyn psychedelic-soul instrumentalists El Michels Affair, embodies this better than anything else to emerge in a strong run that also gave us his Streams of Thought series and his Danger Mouse collab Cheat Codes. You could throw a bit of credit for that to the atmosphere the Affair brings as a backing band: for a certain generation of hip-hop head, their collective ear for funk's stranger, blearier qualities that have been honed from years of RZA reconstructions and retro-cinematic takes on grainy soul-jazz can dredge up some remarkably powerful imagery just on its own. But it's where Black Thought takes these mood pieces, sinking just deep enough into them to absorb a vibe he turns around and commands into vivid life, that makes Glorious Game hit deep. Thought's focused intensity is always good for naturalistic internal rhymes and deeply interlocked referential allusions, but the nuances of his different levels of emotional impact have flourished into his secret weapon as an MC. And the nuanced tone of his more emotionally reflective material—the enduring search for Black joy on "I'm Still Somehow," the sense-memory evocations of a familiar yet often ambivalent nostalgia for a formative time and place on "The Weather," the fight between disillusionment and confidence in "I Would Never"—definitively separates him from your typical lyrics-first rapper. That pays off highest on the album's two most beatific moments: the title cut, where Thought's boasts sound more like self-actualizations than defense mechanisms, and the sobriety-reinvigorated affirmations of closer "Alter Ego," where he takes stock of all the existential questions that drove him to this point and answers them with a clarity that makes even his self-big-ups sound like humble truths. © Nate Patrin/Qobuz

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