La Continues to Hover Above the Crowd With New Album Sealab 2012

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"I got a new addiction this year," says Seattle's La (formerly Language Arts) after he spills some (intricately dictated) brain matter on new track "Habits." Though the ad-lib is preceded by quite a few herb-praising lyrics, he finishes the line with the word "success," which at this point is hard to refute. Released yesterday, his third full-length in the last 18 months--Sealab 2012--in fact does nothing but support the notion of this rather fortunate diagnosis: The 12-track venture finds La firing on all cylinders.

On the sixth track, "Goods," he spits, "If you live in my city and don't smoke/You not in the know, still on parole, or dead broke." It's this kind of effortless beat-strutting that defines La's style. He's not an overly animated (Adult Swim references aside) orator; instead he flaunts his superior rap writing with lines like "Try'nta make the eight ball the Great Wall of China/I love y'all as people, I just hate y'all as rhymers." To that end, I envision La writing out his rhymes on an a tumbling, infinite scroll of parchment rather than dealing with the confinement of say, a notebook or a blanked-out copy of War and Peace.

La's got the kind of skill that even makes a semi-political track like "Diamonds" stand out for its wordplay (which also features dynamite verses from Geologic [Blue Scholars] and Bambu), and by the time that he trades verses with Luck-One (who's another of the Town's most capable MCs) on "We Fly," you're hardly disappointed by its dismal chorus, one of the few missteps on the album.

With his rapidly-becoming-apparent ability to craft quality, concise projects, La has begun to showcase his vision as an artist in addition to his lyrical ability: hand-selecting producers (Def Dee for Gravity, Blue-Ray for Roll With The Winners) to mold these snapshot projects with. Jester--a slick up-an-coming producer who also backed Grynch on his recent Timeless EP--fills the role handily this time around, with a good mix of understated sample elements and fresh keyboard layers.

As an overtly talented penman and vicious battle MC, La has proven that he is the most well-rounded rapper in the area code. Plus, with lines like "Seattle's best, I guess that's why they're muggin' me," you can pretty much pencil in a W before the track is even over. As a well-placed end-message, the album ends with the cartoon drop "Now I'm gonna start chargin' for it . . . ", which was inevitable, so listen for free here while you still can.

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