Chicago is one of premiere locations housing exceptional rappers, including Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and Twista. However, even with such talent, Chi-town’s story is never completely conveyed. Sometimes it is glossed over; other times, it is lost in the myriad of big city reps and references. In The Dark Room, [twitter=mikkeyhalsted]Mikkey Halsted[/twitter] swiftly narrates Chicago’s story, particularly, of its south side. Hip Hop is given yet another voice. It does not mirror anything released recently, yet it is nothing completely new. The Dark Room is Halsted’s introduction to what hopefully becomes a long and successful career in Hip Hop.

Lyrics: 8.5

The best way to describe Halsted’s lyrical style is “multi-layered.” His mic game brings forth a play-on-words approach, his terms alluding to several meanings with one hit. It may be best compared to Talib Kweli in certain instances; in others, the flow resemblance bares closeness to none other than Jay-Z. In addition, Halsted dodges the monotone bullet many rappers seem prone to today, while presenting plenty of versatility on tracks.

Production: 7

The production was good overall, although lacking in some areas. The sound was largely composed of a combination of jazz samples, old school funk, and light guitar chords. With No I.D. as The Dark Room’s main producer, Halsted blends in with beats complimenting his rap style. All in all, a couple of head-knockers; unfortunately, nothing stands out above the remainder of production.

Songs: 9

For any Hip Hop music newbie – or even an established veteran curious as to the difference between an album and a mixtape – The Dark Room is the answer. Halsted does what many established artists cannot seem to do: he constructs a seamless project from start to finish, with a theme, a purpose, and a direction.
In addition to careful creation, The Dark Room comes off as introspective and conscious without being preachy. Halsted narrates from the third person perspective, introducing topics other than…well, himself. He is a breath of fresh air in an industry in which self-absorbed rappers climb the narcissistic ladder. Perhaps the finest song on the album is “Untold Story.” It begins with a skit, and soon tells the story of an incarcerated father who tries to explain to his son why he is where he is in life, and how the son can avoid the same conclusion. Other stand-outs include “Frozen,” “Respect Mines,” and “Soul of a Gangsta.”

Conclusion: 8

How the hell is he gonna create a photo album, and he’s never been to The Dark Room? is the question posed to the listener in the closing skit. Perhaps the question should be posed to rappers more than fans. How can any rapper declare himself an artist when he has yet to complete a portrait? Mikkey Halsted’s album is a masterpiece that should receive the accolades it deserves. There is a method to his Halsted’s, so much so that each skit has a piece in the purpose of the whole. Take away any particular song and the album is left incomplete. It is a shame that The Dark Room is the shining light on the lack of creativity brought forth by countless rappers.

Head over to iTunes to sample and purchase The Darkroom.