Sean Born, Behind the Scale

Nate Patrin

By Nate Patrin

on 02.13.12 in Reviews

The most memorable MCs in the formative years of drug-kingpin rap all shared the opinion the buyers weren’t the only addicts. There was an addiction on the other side of the equation, too – a fiending for the desperate, nothing-to-lose hustling that Jay-Z’s “Can I Live” laid bare. The debut from Maryland’s Sean Born embodies that struggle, mixing the frustration of being caught in the trap with a matter-of-fact pride over finding the mental and spiritual resources to survive it. There’s no glitz in the powder-caked fingers and zombified customers that populate his day-to-day lyrics, but Sean’s voice has enough spark in its ground-down exterior to indicate that his resilience will carry him through. And as he singles out listeners who don’t remember the golden age (“Queen Anne/’90s”) and fleetingly laments the death of the ’90s through the POV of a man who spent those years in prison (“Go Hard”), the sandpaper-coarse, Stax-stitching beats – mostly provided by producer Kev Brown – reinforce the stylistic debts he owes to that era.