Lee - Meet Lee (2008)

Lee
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I entered his apartment in the fall of 2004 and got a chance to hang out with this really, really cool guy and his girlfriend.  I didn't know much about him, other than the fact that he was the leader of a band called the Square Egg.  At that time I was rockin' his first CD, Songs to Live By, a gem of an album filled with the kind musicality and lyrical thoughtfulness that was, at the time,  welcome to these ears.  That evening, as I sat on his couch kickin' back, Lee, the leader, and his girlfriend, literally prepared square, sunny side up eggs for the three of us to polish off.  Zoom three albums and almost 4 years, and the leader, Lee, is not serving eggs on his latest release. Instead, Lee is serving up himself on Meet Lee.

I entered his apartment in the fall of 2004 and got a chance to hang out with this really, really cool guy and his girlfriend.  I didn't know much about him, other than the fact that he was the leader of a band called the Square Egg.  At that time I was rockin' his first CD, Songs to Live By, a gem of an album filled with the kind musicality and lyrical thoughtfulness that was, at the time,  welcome to these ears.  That evening, as I sat on his couch kickin' back, Lee, the leader, and his girlfriend, literally prepared square, sunny side up eggs for the three of us to polish off.  Zoom three albums and almost 4 years, and the leader, Lee, is not serving eggs on his latest release. Instead, Lee is serving up himself on Meet Lee.

Meet Lee, in keeping with Lee's last releases, is steeped in an old school rhyme tradition.  To the unitiated, Meet Lee might seem dated rhyming techniques with simplistic rhyme patterns.  However to those who know Lee's work with Square Egg, they know that he is very much a post-old school kinda guy.  Therefore, his unapologetic use of old school rhyme schematics is actually the charming part about his work.  

What seems to come across most on Meet Lee is the search for decency in black urban music, and the need for balance. On one stand out track on the CD, Lee belts, "I have to answer to myself, I can not cancer no one else with ignorance & guns even if for fun/ that's not my method, I am a man with a plan, with conviction, taking a stand."  The song is a reflection on good times, the loss of friends, and loss of innocence. Something about this song has a bit of an 80s Indeep "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" vibe element to it.  

On another standout song on Meet Lee, 'All U Need," finds Lee celebrating his art while casting off the trappings of materialism, while at the same time making it clear that he has no intention of remaining a starving artist:

Your Girlfriend said that I was broke, like as if I should be ashamed/ Well I won't piss in your pockets and tell you that its rain, But I got big dreams & some ideas in my head/ on intellect & wit, I can keep you well fed.  If that's enough to start, then we can build this thing. Stand here by my side, cause one day I'll be king, like T..I. I'll be King of the South, Lex Coups & all that, platinum grills in my mouth/ Well maybe not, but let me show you just what I am worth, Let me be the one to hold you close when it hurts/Say the things that make you smile and one day when I am paid, it won't be freestyle -It'll feed the family and build a nation together.

On all of Lee's previous work with Square Egg, he has consistently taken on the preservationist role, attempting to resuscitate a sense of self-respect in the modern day black music aesthetic railing against the caricature of the reckless self-destructive Black male bravado. Lee's intention on Meet Lee seems to be no different.

What the listeners will also hear is testament to Lee's appreciation of live instrumentation and his fondness for arrangements not always associated with hip hop.  What he does do differently here is put the attention squarely (pun intended) on himself, allowing the listener to have a window's view into a man's mind who believes in chivalry, and not chauvanism.

In the vein of Michael Franti, and another indie group out of Detroit, Black Bottom Collective, Meet Lee is, again, a post-old school CD that offers up 80s style rhyming, and yet has a definite focus on black love, black liberation, and black self-recovery. Though the themes throughout the CD are not germane to what ails popular black music, some of the nuanced allusions most certainly are.  On Meet Lee, Lee crystallizes the good things that are missing in music to today without being too preachy.  For the listener, he provides lots of mental protein, just as good as the square egg he served this writer almost 4 years ago.

Drake Phifer of Urban Organic

 
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