“Monsters and Children” by Sleep Sinatra | On The Record



podcast by Chance Solem-Pfeifer and Jacob Zlomke | words by Jacob Zlomke

Audio Review

The credits on Lincoln MC Sleep Sinatra’s third release, Monsters and Children, read almost like a roll call for active members of Nebraska’s tight-knit hip-hop scene.

On the 15 tracks, Conchance and Junclassic make appearances. Downtown James Brown produces a third of the tracks, and Op2mus, Veks, Sassoon, INFNTLP and Complex Realmz all lend their beats. To be sure, the result is an eclectic collection of sounds and styles, but the tone is set by Downtown James Brown’s soul samples and the mood is guided by Sleep Sinatra’s relaxed yet quick and twisting delivery.

Lyrically, Monsters and Children blends an acute social consciousness with an exasperated desire for escape. The listener spends time equally deep in Sleep Sinatra’s mind — freely associating words like a slam poetry performance or Lincoln’s hip-hop James Joyce — and in the world around him, populated by the disenfranchised and the fed-up. The speed with which he steps from one frame into the next and back again begets an uncompromising and enchanting psychological whirlwind, reminiscent of Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor.

Monsters and Children is a convincing case for the state of Nebraska hip-hop, when the visibility of the statewide music scene appears to be dominated by indie and folk rock outfits. Unless you’re paying attention, it might be easy to forget that among Nebraska’s myriad musical talent, there exists a burgeoning hip-hop community.

Sleep Sinatra is here to remind you. Monsters and Children is poetic and intellectual. Tracks twist notions of how hip-hop songs should be arranged. It’s also extremely listenable, with Sleep’s smooth vocals and clever wordplay dripping in and around the grooving beats provided by his laundry list of friends and collaborators.

Likely, Monsters and Children, as one among three Sleep Sinatra albums, won’t be a breakout sensation that awakes a previously untapped interest in Nebraska hip-hop overnight. Likely, no single release will be. Rather, with each accomplishment, among which Monsters and Children should be counted, the artists gain a little more traction and strengthen their argument until the catalogue of quality hip-hop becomes too broad to deny.

Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska's managing editor and Jacob Zlomke is HN's staff writer. Reach them at chancesp@hearnebraska.org and jacobz@hearnebraska.org