Ode to the Ghetto
It took Guilty Simpson almost 20 years to finish his debut album, and his old-world authenticity and sense of determination instantly distinguish Ode to the Ghetto. Simpson was largely unknown outside of his hometown of Detroit until his friend and collaborator J Dilla relocated to Los Angeles, thereby helping connect Guilty with the venerated hip-hop label Stones Throw. Much like Dilla’s late-career work, Ode to the Ghetto became a melding of L.A. and Detroit voices. The production work was split among longtime Simpson pals like Dilla, Black Milk, and Mr. Porter, and Stones Throw associates like Madlib and Oh No. Simpson’s no-nonsense approach resulted in the toughest and most direct album of the label’s catalog. “Run,” “Get Bitches,” and “The Future” utilize idiosyncratic beats, but Guilty has an unshakeable presence that keeps the tracks from becoming too frivolous or indulgent. In the face of a rap industry obsessed with youth, he proved the value of an older emcee’s POV. Rather than bust down the door with unbridled enthusiasm, he embodies the coarsened skeptic who's seen it all.