As pairings go, you’d be hard pressed to find two Atlanta hip-hop artists better suited to collaborate than Yamin Semali and producer Illastrate. The two vets have both sharpened their skills over years spent hustling and coming up in the Atlanta underground and they both arrive at this juncture from a similar mindset — one where the classic hip-hop values of verbal prowess, authenticity, and respect for the culture are revered. With their new EP, Time and a Half, the duo known as Monday/Friday continue the fertile partnership that spawned last year’s excellent self-titled debut.
While the EP’s tracklist is made up in large part of previously released singles, hearing them strung together into one cohesive work adds context that infuses the tracks with greater weight and meaning. Opener “Classmates” sets a fiery tone, drawing battle lines between youth and experience, flash and substance, modern trap culture versus golden age hip-hop. It’s an old beef and as such it would be tempting to write the pair off as out of touch or lost in the nostalgic haze of an era long past. But Monday/Friday succeed precisely because they sound so vital and in the moment. Illastrate’s beats may rely upon classic R&B and soul – think mellow grooves, undulating basslines, and jazzy guitars and horns — but tracks like “Blessings” and “Ignorance is Bliss” show he can adopt these sounds and stretch them in new and unexpected ways.
Meanwhile, Semali and the EP’s revolving crew of guest emcees use their verses to thoughtfully address the pressing issues of our time. Police brutality, income equality, eroding communities, social injustice — they’re all dissected under the group’s critical lens. “They say knowledge is power and peace is the gift / But the more you know, the more you get pissed” goes the hook on “Ignorance is Bliss,” and Monday/Friday definitely flashes signs of deep anger and frustration. But if there is a central message here it’s one of struggle, hard work, knowledge, and sacrifice; that dreams don’t come easy or cheap and material wealth can never replace spiritual harmony. “Making your mission these evasive riches? / Cool. I’m trying to exceed the limits of my senses / And that’s the fundamental difference,” Willi Dudat raps on “Blessings” proving that sometimes the simplest statements can be the most profound.
Monday/Friday will celebrate the release of their Time and a Half EP tonight at the Music Room. Supporting them will be Willi Dudat along with host Fort Knox and sounds by DJ O.G. Bobby Jonson. Doors open at 8 p.m. $10 gets you in.