Inland Empire’s own Slick-C and Ital Santos come together for Sermones with production and raps from both of them. Their particular brand of Inland Empire Chicano funk-hop is evident but with more wisdom and a matured almost subdued but sinister melodic sound. Slick-C brings out the goodwill in Santos and this record sees them both turn more attention to the fortunes of the next generation.
In “Don’t Follow Them Footsteps”, Slick and Santos share hood tales of multiple generations of tragedy as a cautionary story for young kids in cities like the IE’s San Bernardino.
The guest roster is impeccable – Mando the DJ, Azma, Notiz Yong, Yung Miss, Ominous and more So Cal heavy hitters. Songs like “Know Me Now” roll along luxuriously. “Finer Things” recurs with a reprise at the end of the album- all 3 songs reinforcing that their tastes are aging as they do, seeking a more adult sophistication in the challenging economic milieu of the I.E.
Like the “I Pray” interlude in Santos’ recent Leifs, the “Pass the Blunt” interlude is actually a highlight of the album. The skits show Slick and Ital acting a fool, but the blend of lesson songs and conversational interjections play with the idea and etymology of “Sermones”.
“How I’m Livin'” chimes with one of the album’s standout melodies. “Stories of an OG” and “It’s Called Hate” continue the subdued chill melodic meditations on life, the “sermons”. The sermons might culminate in one of the least rap-filled tracks, “Letter to Time”, a truly beautiful and haunting poem-song that finds the rapper producer duo anthropmorphizing time as people they haven’t seen in a long time. It’s refreshing to see hip-hop’s men opening up like this. On it, Slick-C’ sounds like Rappn’ 4 Tay on “Player’s Club” on the chill guitar-soaked beat.
Much of the record reminds me of Warren G in its having producers laying soundscapes for themselves to rap funky chill songs to. “Sermones” gives listeners a peek into the more luxurious side of Inland Empire hip-hop, illustrating aspirations and meditations that many of us find all too relatable. – Tristan Douglas
Check out the album and video below.