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Diverse - Move

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Artist: Diverse

Album: Move

Label: Chocolate Industries

Review date: Apr. 16, 2002

Chi-town representative Diverse is not well known in the underground hip hop community—not even in the first-kid-on-the-block one-upmanship of the internet message boards. That could be because he has no Def Jux production or anticon guest appearances on Move, his 2001 Chocolate Industries EP (“I think he used to work at UPS or some shit,” as one message board response tellingly put it). Or perhaps it’s a lack of involvement with other Chicago crews like galapogos4 or the Molemen. Whatever the reasons, he makes a strong case for himself as a talented (if not entirely original) emcee on Move, and one that people should be looking out for in the months ahead, when word has it he will be releasing a full-length EP on Chocolate Industries. In fact, his microphone presence as an emcee is one of the EP’s strong points—as he states himself on “The Unprefix,”: “to the pioneers of hip hop I pay homage.” In a hip hop world of often out-of-breath studio punch-in emcees, his confidence is reminiscent of a different era of hip hop music, and a breath of fresh air. But, it quickly becomes clear that Diverse may have taken that idea of paying homage a bit too far: before the first song was halfway through, I was getting visions of Common, and by the time the song was over, I felt like I was actually listening to Common. Though the lines are all his own, Diverse has committed the cardinal sin of hip hop: he has jacked someone’s steez. Common’s style, references (hip hop as “soul music”) and vocal inflections are all over this EP. It honestly sounds like he was listening to Like Water for Chocolate, Common’s 2000 LP, right before he spit every single verse on this EP. It is fascinating in a lot of ways, but it certainly makes the EP harder to listen to for someone who is familiar with Common’s work.

However, as many hip hop aficionados will attest, if an emcee was going to jack anyone’s style, Common is a good choice. That is, the album is entirely listenable and even enjoyable at parts. The title track has a piano riff (the instrumentation is live in the best of the boring Roots tradition) that works fine as long as you don’t actually listen too closely to it, and has Diverse at his Common-like best. “What I Do,” one of the other two vocal tracks on the EP, has Diverse experimenting with a more Mos Def sound for the first part of the song before returning to his comfortable Common-space. The reliance on a piano as the primary instrument again, though in chords instead of single notes this time around, gets somewhat monotonous. “The Unprefix” is by far the best song on the EP—a quiet guitar anchors the track, and has Diverse gesturing (at moments, at least) towards his potential as an emcee that could actually have his own sound. Unfortunately, this last of the vocal tracks is also the shortest. The EP is rounded out by a throwaway instrumental track (there is a woman’s voice, but she only moans and hums, rather than actually singing anything) and a clean version of “Move.”

More than anything, Diverse shows here that he has potential—just as soon as he finds his own style, he will be an emcee worth listening to. Until then, I’ll stick with Common.

By Daniel Thomas-Glass

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