Homespun: Con & Michael Franco, She EP

May 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

When we last heard from Con (a.k.a., north-side native Malcolm Chandler) this past September, he had just dropped Solstice Part 2 (Dreams from a Snow Globe). That album attempted, in part, to encapsulate some of the rage and sorrow surrounding post-Ferguson St. Louis, and Chandler and his crew were some of the first voices to go on record when the eyes of the world were on our region. That album was one of St. Louis' best releases last year -- not only for Con's deft handling of the political commentary, but also for his strong, clear-eyed verses on all topics, placed alongside smart, soulful grooves. His latest EP, the eight-song She, shows similar range and more robust backing tracks, thanks to Michael Franco's production. Con's political consciousness is still engaged, as evident on the generous sample of Gil Scott-Heron on opener "Them Negus," and the larger message of black unity is introduced in Heron's words and underlined in Con's verses. The message here is less immediately topical but potently evergreen.

As on the last record, Con leans on his friends and fellow emcees to fill out these tracks, and each of them adds a distinct flavor. Rachel Nevels nails the hook on the swirling, intoxicating "Too Far," and Hugh Augustine returns to share "Bad Investments" with Con as they enumerate their dreams with equal parts hedonism and realism. As producer, Franco earns co-billing through punchy drum programming and laid-back soul samples; every track has a vintage, analog grain to it while remaining sturdy enough to contain Con's potent delivery. "Essentials," which features sage-like verses from Black Spade, rides on busy high-hat and smooth flute-flecked funk, and "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" lets Con and Mir set the rhythm while the track recedes to little more than a sampled string loop. Moog bass and electric guitar give an edge to closing track "Mood," which finds Con at both his most aggressive and his most bare, as he cops to shortcomings and soul-searching at the end of this brief program. It's a good look on him, even if She lacks some of the scope that his full-lengths delivered on. If nothing else, it cements his partnership with Franco, though both artists are fruitful collaborators with many others. Here, though, they manage to help one another shine.

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