A.Y.E. – 90 Now

Makebelieve Records

Classic boom-bap beats have become the recent fascination of many up-and-coming emcees most notably in the camps of Joey Bada$$ and Bishop Nehru. Now Calgary’s A.Y.E. — born Jahimba Hutson — has hopped on the resurgence but in a fresh way with his new free album.

Clocking in at only 40 minutes 90 Now isn’t a long listen but it crams in several calculated shout-outs to the legendary era. Many of the tracks — “LAB (Life’s a Bitch)” “Represent” and “1Love (One Love)” — pay specific respect to Nas’ Illmatic with a combination of production and lyrical references to the work (there’s plenty of acknowledgement of the likes of Biggie and Public Enemy too).

But it’s more than just an album of namedropping. A.Y.E. offers a relaxed yet precise flow (one notably improved over his previous release the Goodbye EP) delivered over layered self-made beats. The guest features are predominantly Calgarian with members of Jazzlib Teekay of Dragon Fli Empire Ayoo Angie and Halfcut all offering impressive appearances. In the end 90 Now isn’t game-changing — in some cases it seems to try too hard for New York cred — but it’s certainly worth a listen.