Formed in 2014, the group Built on Principle consists of members Saint Mike who takes care of production, mixing and mastering, and vocalists Empuls and BeWill. “The Modesty Martyrs” EP is the first album from this hip-hop and rap group based out of Virginia. Released via Stonemaple Music Works, This album gives me chills. I grew up listening to that infamous “Golden Era” of hip hop of the mid 90s and “The Modesty Martyrs” EP delivers that feeling. I’m almost disappointed that we only get 8 tracks, but I understand that’s just how things are these days. And in this case less is more. I got 8 tracks and I’m dying to hear more. Which is why we need to support groups like Built on Principle. The production by Saint Like would send many of his peers in the industry running for cover. Also, Empuls and BeWill prove themselves amongst the elite of hip hop spitters. They consistently deliver throughout the album.
Built on Principle are building bridges here, as they seem interested in bridging the gap between the new school and the old on “The Modesty Martyrs”. The feel of the album right the way through is gritty and full of angst, like the very best rap albums have always been.
Saint Mike beats are solid, layered and beautifully realized – the perfect canvas for Empuls and BeWill’s pitch perfect posturing and belligerent bravado. No two tracks have a similar tone, so it never feels like one long song as on many other current releases. It stays consistently great without ever being monotonous.
Built on Principle are so vicious from the outset, on the insistent, but soulful groove of “Duh Feat Myka 9”. If you were in any doubt where Built on Principle ranks as a collective in Hip Hop right now, this song instantly ends any feeble debate. Saint Mike can put together a distinctive soundscape that defines an entire album.
His chemistry with Empuls and BeWill is fundamental in bringing out the best in the rappers. Which is exactly what they deliver on the forward momentum of “Smooth Unison feat Vast Aire”, where the team kick vocal ballistics over a shimmering funky beat.
The old school sounding “Devolution feat Qwazaar (Cuts by Scratch Johnsonic)” is evocative of mid ’80s classics. The beat fits in with the fierce verbal displays, purposely suggesting a throwback to an era when lyricism was central to an emcee’s identity.
Built on Principle then explore the other side of the coin with “Hypatia’s Son” a keyboard and string dominated song. That this collective are at the point in their careers where they can do whatever they want, is clear on “SR-91 AURORA” ft. Sev Statik, probably one of the best orchestrated tracks on the album.
Built on Principle are both brutal and beautiful in their capacity to construct lyrics that deconstruct your mind. Tracks like, “Run of the Rosicrucian” and “Nuthin Yet” ft. Kev Adventures, have the crew blazing through words as if they’re literally spitting flames, which leave you lit. Once again the vocalists shine brightly, due to Saint Mike’s beats being an undeniable fuel.
But even without that gorgeous musical backdrop, Built on Principle would be enthralling enough to make your head nod, what with their nimble flow and inventive rhymes. The group rises to the occasion time and again with stunning one-liners and evocative lyrical imagery, finally closing the show down with the atmospheric “Without Water” ft. Main Flow.
From beginning to end, “The Modesty Martyrs” EP is just so captivating you can’t but help but go back and play it again. And I didn’t even get into the narratives behind the storytelling, as we don’t even have enough pages for that. Anyway, to cut a long story short – If you don’t have money to buy this album, then steal it. It’s an essential piece of independent hip-hop which you need to add to your urban music collection now.