Album of the Day: Vic Spencer & Sonny Jim, “Spencer for Hire”
By Will Schube · January 16, 2018 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette

J Dilla was often referred to as “your favorite producer’s favorite producer.” While his stature has grown in the years since his tragic death, at the peak of his powers, his combination of grit, precision, emotion, and trunk-rattling bass endeared him to hip-hop heads across the country. Something similar could be said of Vic Spencer, the eternally-hustling Chicago emcee at once celebrated within the underground and criminally overlooked outside of that sphere; he’s your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.

The traits that make Spencer so endearing to technicians of the hip-hop craft are readily apparent on Spencer for Higher, a collaboration with rapper SonnyJim. Spencer’s low-register voice moves from self-deprecating (he once anointed himself Chicago’s “worst rapper”) to braggadocious (“I’m at the Derby in a Porsche,” he raps on “Gs3”) to unflinchingly reflective (“I knew what I had to do but I was afraid / Got off that punk-ass shit / Started recording hit after hit,” goes a line from “Happy Dollars”). It’s Spencer’s versatility as a lyricist that makes his records so irresistibly replayable, and Spencer for Higher is no different. His interplay with SonnyJim suggests a lifelong collaboration, not a one-off between two seemingly unconnected emcees. Between Spencer for Higher and his fruitful, ongoing collaboration with Chris Crack, it’s clear that Vic Spencer is as comfortable playing off collaborators as he is working on his own. He is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, after all—even if your favorite rapper doesn’t know it yet.

-Will Schube
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