EP Review | D. Lanham & Ronesh – Life (Prelude to Decay)

This extended play was released on September 4th this year. D. Lanham & Ronesh already released one of my favorite projects of the year back in February with Ikarus Rising, so I was pretty excited when they released this new one. I also loved that Bonsai album that Ronesh produced, so I’m a big fan of him. I didn’t really have any information about this EP in particular aside from the fact that D. Lanham co-produced every song except for track 3. All I had to go on was their preceding extended play, but I was still expecting greatness.

The project begins with Imperfections, which is the most melodic song on the whole EP. It has a very light-hearted, jazzy, heavenly sounding instrumental. This kind of posh production style permeates most of the project. I think this track works well as an intro. It honestly would’ve sounded odd if it were placed anywhere else on the EP. D. Lanham’s writing is just as good as it was on their previous project too.

Mama raised me friendly, what's a stranger?
Still had sets and stress amongst the trailer
Sex-obsessed and love caressive danger
Chased the star that did not lead to manger
Chase the high that did not need a hangar

I really like the way he sounded when he sang that “will the river lead me to salvation?” line. That was dope. The “soul clap” that eventually comes in during the crescendo around this part is really nice too. D. Lanham’s singing isn’t amazing or anything, but I think it’s definitely sufficient. I’ll put it like this; he’s not as good of a singer as Drake, but he’s definitely better than someone like J. Cole. Overall, I think it’s a very dope intro. The following track, Roses for Sheba, is a major highlight for me. I think Imperfections transitions into it really nicely. I love the somber, piano-driven production too. I also just feel like D. Lanham’s performance here is a bit more… I don’t know what word to use exactly. The intro track just felt like it was slightly more focused on setting a mood. This track feels like it places more importance on the actual rap performance.

Roses for Sheba, givin' land to God
What don't you have that I could supply when I'm only flawed?
Don't mix self awareness with deprecation
I'm confident I'm imperfect, the herb just lie through the fragrance

I really love the dreamy, meditative atmosphere of this song. The opening verse is fantastic.

Conversation, we strayed, it was common tales and dreams
Gorgeous, but far out, and intangible though it seems
That a handle is in my reach, strugglin' forward, run
The reach was carved in the sky, I stumbled around the sun

I think I misquoted that third bar, but fuck it. It’s still dope as hell. The vocals on the hook sound a little strange to me, but in a cool way. The second verse was even better than the first one too, and it’s not even close to be honest. He killed that shit.

Roses for Sheba, I'll give you statues, they last longer
Pray to reincarnate together, despite my past karma
Saṃsāra, gospel of dharma, your love is real as faith
Liberate the angel that's fitted with weights
Holy, I sit in your grace; pure, but still could relate
I'm sure my cynical takes scrape at your spirit
What's my allure?

This verse is incredible to me. I don’t know why this kinda writing always blows me away. I never like Christian Rap, but when artists write about other religions or spiritual themes I’m always hooked. Maybe it’s just because I grew up in a Christian household. I think that’s probably why I have an aversion to that particular religion. Although there are some artists who are able to incorporate Christian themes and imagery into their work well. I like when Jay Electronica references shit like that. Of course Kendrick does it well too, but I digress. I think this song is fucking awesome, and it’s easily one of my favorite tracks. It’s dope af. The penultimate track is another highlight entitled Passengers. This track still has a pretty light, kind of regal-sounding instrumental, but it’s way more energetic and aggressive sounding. The percussion is far more hard-hitting. This is the hardest song on the EP. The echoey horns that come in and out every now and then give it kind of a floaty aesthetic though, so I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a dark beat. D. Lanham was rapping his ass off too.

Subwoofer and some mittens, speakerbox up out the tap
Found your spirits through the wire, this is deeper than some rap
This is deeper than my wrath, this is deeper than the law
This is deeper than anxiety that's tensing up your jaw

The pitch-shifted hook isn’t amazing or anything, but I think it serves its purpose as a break between the verses well enough. The second verse is even better to me than the first one.

Who's your GOAT? I think we should have a sacrifice
Ascended master, my aura surpasses acolytes
If the bar ain't crafted by God, it doesn't phase me
Me and the beat connect like opposite charged magnet sides

Overall, I think the song is dope as hell. I do have some very slight nitpicks—I think the manner in which the song ends is a little messy—but overall I love it. The closing track is called Monkey Style Kung Fu. If I’m not mistaken, I think I actually heard a very early, rough version of this song a few months ago. I might be tripping though. Anyway, this shit is fucking awesome. I think this song has one of the prettiest instrumentals on the whole project, and D. Lanham was rapping his ass off throughout the whole track.

Nature what we violate
The architect's eyes start to dilate
Desecrate what's sacred for some higher pay
Chargin' us for sickness, food, shelter, and to hydrate
Then distract us with their system-manufactured crime rates
Movin' at a dire pace, but we can't hit the breaks, the pump
We can't keep ourselves alive, who has the time to chase the sun?

The song is relatively long, but it feels very big and I guess grandiose.

Human or beast, greet us somewhere in between
Open air chattel, commerce, a paddle their only needs
Devils pillage nature 'til all that's left is their family trees
Their only fear is disease, society runs a fever
The web recoils the seeds, fate tilts with the lever
While Moses drowned in the reefs, the species need a redeemer
Dreamers that make believers, why we need to be led
The powerful seem facetious, their aura look like the dead
Bloodlines tightly bred, no need for illuminati
They rule our wallets and heads, the entertainment is shoddy

I’m sure I misquoted several of those lines, but it is what it is. I tried my best. Anyway, as you can see, this dude actually has some interesting shit to say, which is why I love his writing so much. He slaughtered this track. I love it. I think it’s dope af.

I think this EP is amazing. Personally, I would probably choose Ikarus Rising over this, but it’s mainly only because it’s a longer project, so there’s just more to dig into. I’m ready for a full album at this point though. I still think Ronesh is one of the dopest underground producers out right now, and I love how much effort D. Lanham puts into his writing. He says shit that nobody else is saying, so I of course appreciate that. There’s nothing generic about his writing style at all. The main appeal of this project is definitely the lyricism for me. I think Ronesh did a really great job at crafting a consistent soundscape too. The EP actually sounds exactly like the cover art to me. It sounds heavenly, yet turbulent. It sounds like somebody going through some shit, but growing in the process of his struggles. It’s like audial liberation. I love it. Don’t sleep on this shit. It’s dope as hell.



Grade: A


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