Album Review | Guillotine Crowns - Hills to Die On

This album was released on April 29th this year. Guillotine Crowns is a duo comprised of legendary underground rapper/producer Uncommon Nasa and rapper Short Fuze. I have kind of a rocky history with Uncommon Nasa’s music. Until very recently, I wrote him off as one of those rappers that I simply could not get into no matter how hard I tried. Much like Roc Marciano, his music just bored me to tears. I think the main reason I had so much trouble with his music in the past is his flow. He has a really off-kilter, kind of Spoken Word-ish cadence that is definitely an acquired taste. He also doesn’t have a particularly recognizable voice. However, since going back to his music recently, I have found a new appreciation for his style. I actually think New York Telephone is a very good album now, and Written at Night is pretty good too. City as School & Halfway had some songs that I liked as well, but overall I couldn’t get into them, so I still wouldn’t say that I’m completely sold on Nasa. However, when his music hits, it hits hard. Paranoia or Perception was stuck in my head for days after I first heard it. I love that song. I honestly prefer Nasa as a producer though. I think his weird, experimental production style is really cool. On the other hand, Short Fuze is an MC whom I’ve been following for a few years at this point. However, I hadn’t actually listened to any of his work until very recently. I enjoyed Autonomy Music, which was produced by Uncommon Nasa, but overall I felt kinda similar about his music. His flow is definitely an acquired taste. Both of these guys make sense working together though because I think they rap very similarly. I’ve found that my enjoyment of their work kinda depends on the quality of their production. I’ve never heard a song by either of them that I would say is flat out bad, but sometimes their songs just do absolutely nothing for me. Anyway, this latest project is their first official album as a rap duo, although Nasa has produced several projects for Short Fuze in the past. This one is fully produced by Uncommon Nasa as well, so I think I should enjoy it to some extent hopefully.
The first song is called Now They Know It. Right off the bat, the bizarre production style immediately stood out to me. I think the strange, kind of Electronic-sounding instrumental is really cool. The opening verse from Nasa is pretty solid too. Again, he still doesn’t have the most captivating flow to me, but it’s not a particularly bad cadence. I like his relatively energetic vocal delivery, and the lyrics are pretty cool too.
I tell people that my mind's not strong
And they sit back and tell me that that's just so wrong
But what I mean is that I think too much
And when I feel a hand outreach I avoid the clutch
I actually think Short Fuze’s verse is more interesting lyrically. He actually rapped really goddamn well here.
Sit back and watch the paranoia overtake
Can't shake these goddamn shakes
Bitten by the snakes, feel the venom
Raise the stakes, skate around the stench of death
The weird production is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s pretty much the main reason that I like the song. This isn’t exactly a major highlight or anything, but I enjoyed it, and I think it’s a good way to start the album. The following track is called Art Dealers. The way the preceding track transitions into this one is pretty smooth, and I actually love the production on this song. I think the beat’s fucking awesome. The rapping from Nasa & Short Fuze is really nice as well. I definitely preferred Nasa’s performance on this song in particular, but they both did their thing.
One of the best word sayers
My pen strokes art, all of the rest need favors
They got no heart, evaluate my start
The year is '99 and it will rip you apart

I don’t know if I’m just becoming more accustomed to their styles or if they’re rapping differently, but their flows actually sounded pretty good on this track to me. There’s really nothing that I don’t like about this song. I think it’s dope. The following track is called Scope of the Guillotine, and it’s got an even better instrumental than the preceding track. I love how dirty and grimy it sounds. It kinda sounds like something 7L would produce honestly. This was one of the more exciting songs in the tracklist for me because it features Jyroscope. I’m not super familiar with them, but everything I’ve heard from them in the past has been really dope. I still haven’t learned the members of the duo, so I don’t know who went first, but they both killed this shit. The opening verse from Short Fuze is pretty good, and the final verse from Nasa is dope too. However, I kinda feel like Jyroscope got them on this track. It’s not only that they had more traditional, digestible flows, but it’s also that they just had more impressive rhymes in my opinion. Everyone on this song did a nice job though. There’s not a single verse here that didn’t impress me to some extent. Again, I was more impressed by Jyroscope’s performance on this song, but Short Fuze & Nasa also rapped really well. The song is dope as hell. It’s followed by Horseman Armour, which features Duke01 & the late Gajah. This song has another one of the coolest instrumentals on the album. I love how noisy the percussion is. The opening verse from Nasa is pretty good, and Duke01 did his thing on the second verse. It was nice to hear from Gajah one last time, and he arguably had the best verse on the song. He definitely had my favorite flow on the track. It’s really between him and Nasa as far as who had my favorite performance here. However, it should be noted that I enjoyed every verse to some extent. The following song is called Bare Hands. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself returning to this track in the future. My main issue with it is just the production honestly. I really don’t like this beat. It’s just as weird as the preceding material, so if you’re into off-kilter, unorthodox instrumentals like I am then you might like it. I just don’t find it particularly enjoyable personally. It’s simultaneously annoying and boring to me. It’s unfortunate because I think this track has some of the most interesting rapping on the album. I just can’t get into this track sonically at all. I like the lyrics, but Short Fuze’s flow left something to be desired on that first verse. I wouldn’t call this a bad song, but I’d be lying if I said I found any real type of enjoyment out of it. Again, the lyrics are tight, but that’s pretty much it. I think it’s mediocre. Track 6 is called City Breathing, and it’s got another really strange beat. I don’t know how I feel about it honestly. I like the percussion, but I’m not really feelin’ the high-pitched synths that are panned to the right. The first verse from Short Fuze didn’t really do much for me honestly. Again, his lyrics were kinda cool, but the flow and vocal delivery just don’t really keep my attention. Uncommon Nasa’s verse was a bit easier to follow, but it’s still not good enough to make me wanna listen to the song again in the future. Honestly, the more I listen to this song, the less I like it. The production, while interesting, isn’t particularly enjoyable for me, and same goes for the rapping honestly. I like this track more than the preceding song, but not by much. It’s mediocre to me. Track 7 is called Tape Deck, and it features an artist named Tracy Jones. I really dig the dreamy, melodic production on this track, and Short Fuze’s flow on the first verse is pretty solid too. Nasa’s flow sounded kind of Elucid-ish to me.

The mind inside the mind is rewinding, cassette tape bound tightly
Eased by the number 2 pencil, not just for the writing
But well written, a lot rhythm, keep shock hidden
Traveled the world, five albums, five full-time jobs, still don't fit in

The final verse from Tracy Jones is actually pretty enjoyable to me as well. They had a nice flow. Overall, I think the song is pretty good. It’s not one of my favorites on the album, but I definitely enjoyed it enough to return to it in the future. It’s a good track. The following song is called Rebel Crowns, and it’s got a really dope instrumental. I love how dark and ominous it sounds, and the weird, melodic elements that eventually come in as the song progresses are really awesome. I think this is the perfect type of beat for these guys to rhyme over honestly. Short Fuze sounds really good over this production style.

Time had its hands around my neck
Claustrophobic breath
Reflect on my gang days
I was Flava Flav with a 12 gauge
Maskin' the pain in a purple haze
Lookin' to get my art framed
In the minds of galleries
Tradin' in the corner for a salary
In which life was lived more valiantly
Electricity at my finger tips like Palpatine
Pigs'll stream free when your values free

The EPMD reference was pretty nice too. Short Fuze sounded great on this track. Nasa of course did a nice job as well, but for whatever reason Short Fuze just stood out a lot more to me. Anyway, the song is really dope. I fuck with it. The following track is entitled The Product, and it’s got another very weird, kind of electronic-sounding instrumental. It kinda reminds me of something that Jason Griff could’ve made for his collaborative album with Alaska, Human Zoo. It’s an interesting instrumental, but I don’t even think it’s particularly enjoyable. It’s kind of irritating to me. It’s not trash or anything, but I don’t really like it that much. Thankfully, the beat switches up for the second verse from Uncommon Nasa, and this part is far more enjoyable to me. The second half is definitely better, but, overall, I still don’t know if I’d come back to this. It’s not a bad song at all, but it just lacks replay value for me. Track 10 is called KILLER, and it stood out a lot from the tracklist because it features SKECH185. As far as lyrical content goes, this is probably my favorite track on the album. I was immediately hooked by the first line from Short Fuze.

I don't cry when cops die
But you never ask why
"Blue Lives Matter" is a lie
Another sign of oppression
Disconnected from protection and service
Blue lights still make me nervous
Is this going to be my last breath?
Sick of black death and the same old stories
Turned into blood orgies
A bullet in our head, now you're sorry
All of the sudden it's some sort of allegory
Stuck in the "it doesn't happen" category

His flow is still an acquired taste on this track, but I feel like it works really well with the off-kilter instrumental from Nasa. This track definitely has one of my favorite beats on the album. It’s really slow-paced, but it works well with Short Fuze’s flow. I appreciate how different Nasa’s flow is from that of Short Fuze too. They really attacked this song differently. The closing verse from SKECH185 was a really nice touch. I don’t really have any gripes with this track. I of course appreciate the political content, and I think the production is great. Their flows were easier to get into on this song for whatever reason as well. The song is dope as hell. It’s followed by another highlight for me entitled Generosity. The weird, slow-paced, heavy, electronic-sounding production on this track is really awesome, and the rapping is really fucking dope. Nasa killed the first verse. The second verse from Short Fuze is what really caught my attention though.

Happy new year, depression
It's just me and you again
Finding new ways to explore the connection
Generosity—what is it?
Is it mom cooking for strangers in the kitchen?
Is it one day without pain and sickness?
Fighting to survive, the new version of mankind
Working full time, struggling to pay my bills
Poppin' pills, faith kills
Went from heavy thinker to heavy drinker
Once again on the brink of suicide
Darkness paints realms inside my mind
Violent by design unless I find something to supplement my next high
Fighting time, struggling to stay alive

Honestly, that might be my favorite verse on the whole album. I liked the song a lot already, but that verse pushed it to the next level. I think the song’s dope as hell, and it’s easily one of my favorites on the album. It’s followed by one of my least favorite songs on the album, They Can’t Kill Us All. I should be very clear about something; I don’t think the rapping on this song is subpar by any means. It’s actually quite good. My issue with this song is strictly the production. This beat is ugly as hell, man. It just sounds really bad to me. The melody of those flickering synths just isn’t good. I honestly think it’s one of the worst beats I’ve heard in a while. If the rapping wasn’t as good as it is, I’d think this was a wack song. It’s very mediocre to me overall. On the other hand, the following track, Patient King, has one of the coolest beats on the whole album. I think this beat is awesome. The first verse from Short Fuze is really nice too.

Woke up in a new era
Welcome to the Terrordome
Where nuclear winter burns slow
Don't take a knee, fall back into proper place
Give up your dough and everything you own
Here's a toast for gambling with your soul
Politicals play out over newscasts and televisions shows
Baggin' up hatred, and sellin' it as dope

I also think this song has one of the better hooks on the album. Nasa’s flow on the second verse is really cool. He sounds great here. The song’s really dope overall. The closing song is the closest thing to a title track, and it’s called Hills. This is a pretty good song, but not one of my favorites on the album. The beat definitely took a few listens to grow on me, but I do kinda like it. It’s definitely not one of my favorite beats on the album. The weird horn loop took some getting used to. It’s cool though. I really like Nasa’s flow on the first verse. He stood out to me more than Short Fuze on this track, but they both did a good job. The hook is pretty solid too. It’s a good track overall.

This is a good album. I enjoyed the majority of the tracks here, and I wouldn’t say that any of the songs are bad. I definitely think some tracks worked better than others, but nothing struck me as being completely wack. I tend to think of myself as a lyrics-first kinda guy, but I have to admit that the main appeal of this project for me is just the eclectic production. I’ve definitely become a big fan of Nasa’s beats recently, and this project is another reason why. I mean, some of the beats weren’t good to me at all, but for the most part I enjoyed how strange they are. The rapping is good too though. I think Nasa & Short Fuze are a pretty good pair on the mic. Their styles compliment each other well, and they fit over this production style well too. The production can be kind of a mixed bag, but it’s also this album’s greatest strength in my opinion. If you’ve been a fan of Uncommon Nasa & Short Fuze up to this point, I don’t see how you can possibly be disappointed in this record. I think this is the best project either of them have been involved in since Autonomy Music. It’s a dope album. Check it out.

Favorite Song: Generosity
Least Favorite Song: Bare Hands