Album Review: Mike Posner and The Brain Trust – A Matter of Time

Michigan’s Mike Posner highlights his raspy, tuneful voice and infectious songs on this “mixtape,” which plays like a fully fleshed album. Whatever you call it, A Matter of Time sounds like great practice for the recording and release of his upcoming first album, which will arrive in 2010. Posner could do a lot worse than to polish and release the songs he’s already got here, a move that would undoubtedly bring success if promoted properly.

A sociology major at Duke University, Posner has proven adept at finding the right mix of wordplay and appealing lyricism while devising appropriate musical atmospherics for the chosen subject matter. Perhaps it’s a product of his major that he’s able to tap into exactly the kind of content that appeals to a wide swath of people – not only college kids and hip-hop heads but R&B lovers, beatmongers, and high-minded music fans. There’s something undeniably charming about the album’s exuberant hooks and coming-of-age vibe, which is undercut with a touch of raw hip-hop that keeps the proceedings legit for the most part.

Alternately radio-ready and slightly subversive, the songs cover all the important issues of an artist about to graduate from college – girls, weed, the fellas, girls who deal weed, smoking weed with the fellas – it’s all very complicated. But Posner and his collaborators can wring head-nodding gold from even those played subjects – “Smoke and Drive,” for instance, features a dramatic, bass-heavy beat crafted explicitly to enhance the topic of the song (listeners who can’t gather that from the song’s title aren’t the target market), which is a lyrical swap meet between no less than 4 unique rappers.

The pinging pop of “Cooler Than Me” channels the geeky hipster-hop of N.E.R.D., blending self-absorbed lyrics with a hint of bravado and laying it over a shifting mass of 8-bit warbles, upbeat dance rhythms, and atmospheric guitars. “Drug Dealer Girl” could be one of the more unique love songs ever written, as Posner explains his affection for – you guessed it – a girl that deals weed. The largely borrowed “Halo” might be the biggest production achievement on the album, as a litany of sounds combine to strike a melodramatic chord that suits Posner’s slightly confused, confrontational lyrics and singing.

The collection’s few missteps are to be expected from such a young artist, and one at least manages to fall into the “guilty pleasure” category. The deliberately cheesed-out revamp of Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Evil Woman” is nothing we haven’t heard from a million mash-ups, but the totally embarrassing synth line that replaces the original song’s guitar hook breaks the mood. Still, it’s likely to turn a few heads and could be a touchstone for turning people on to the music. On that same note, “Hey Cupid” and “Losing My Mind” aren’t going to join the upper echelon of Posner’s repertoire any time soon, but they’re hardly a dealbreaker for the album.

Posner has conquered the captive audience of Duke University, as evidenced by the crowd response at 2009’s Last Day of Classes event. There’s much more real estate to be had if he stays true to his vision, and this outfit could be one of hip-hop’s potential breakout stories in 2010.

Rating: 7.8 out of 10

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