“I guess the hustling is the unspoken Gospel / Love that I’m an apostle / Feel the holy spirit of Chicago…” – Common, All Night LongThe Legendary Traxster—a long-time collaborator of Twista—released his latest album Black Saints earlier this month. The title track features his newlywed wife Tia London, who is signed to Traxster Inc.

The Chicago producer and MC provides a dark, introspective narrative about growing up in Chicago’s streets. Meanwhile, Tia London’s beautiful vocals illuminates the track, which blends smoothly with the mellow production. In “Black Saints,” The Legendary Traxster meditates on the mechanisms of life and death; the spilled blood on the ground in contrast to spilled ink on the writing pad, as well as the pitfalls of despair and the power of faith.

These dichotomies are set up on the opening track “Beat God,” which begins with a Gregorian chant filtered through a vocoder. Suddenly, a voice interjects, “Who made that beat? That ain’t a Traxster beat.” It’s a fitting title and opener. After all, The Legendary Traxster built his reputation as an artist over the decades through brilliant producing.

He supplied his hometown collaborator Twista with hits over the years, producing six tracks for Category F5, including “Wetter.” The Legendary Traxster also produced Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Nicki Minaj’s “Battle Of The Sexes,” as well as co-writing and producing Mariah Carey’s “One and Only,” which earned the beatsmith a Grammy nomination.

Athough Kanye West is the most well-known Chicago producer-turned-rapper, Traxster has every right to claim himself as the “Beat God.” The second track on the album, “When the Guns Come Out,” continues the cathedral chants that provide a great foundation for the drums and Dre-esque synths. That’s what’s genius about this album—the consistency. It’s not just the production, but the dark atmosphere and lyrics that makes Black Saint cohesive.

In fact, by the third track, “Pray for ‘Em,” you already understand the artistic vision of Traxster. He provides warnings for the young and lost, but he doesn’t shove his message down your throat like a televangelist. Traxster is not necessarily a saint nor does he want to be seen as a martyr of the streets. If anything, this album articulates what it’s like to be a mortal on Earth—there’s sex and smoke interweaved throughout the album—but is trying to grasp something greater.

In the title track, which is also the last song, the Chicago veteran reflects, “It’s like the wings of an angel shield me / Divine intervention before danger kill me / I must be here for a purpose / Did it surface? Could it be this beat? / Could it be these verses?”

Indeed, Traxster’s verses prove that the pen is a better weapon against the negative forces of the world than the gun. It’s up to a higher power to decide whether he’s a saint or not, but there’s one thing for sure: The Legendary Traxster is one of hip hop’s most treasured producers and voices.

The album is now available on iTunes and Tidal.

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