Those who know House Shoes only for his role in the development of Detroit hip-hop might be skeptical about this. The man is known more for his DJ'ing prowess and forthright opinions than his beats, but that's because he's not one to saturate the market. Music making has been part of his life for almost two decades; he records when the mood strikes and releases when conditions are appropriate. Those who were up on his mind-bending contributions to Danny Brown's XXX
and Quelle Chris
' Shotgun & Sleek Rifle
probably aren't surprised that Let It Go
is one of 2012's best albums. It's densely packed with astute sample sourcing and chopping -- simultaneously gutter and elegant beats laced with the likes of Electrifying Mojo, Kenny Dixon, Jr.
, the original Mr. T., Tommy Devito, and a dozen-plus mostly A-game MCs. "Time" hits hardest. It flips Eddie Kendricks
and Steve Miller
in an ingenious way that a select few, Shoes' close friend Dilla
included, have touched. Big Tone
takes the prize for best boast: "Cast a shadow on rappers like a sundial, and when the light evolves, watch them all dissolve." For all the cool confidence exuded by Shoes, best complemented by Roc Marciano
, Moe Dirdee, and Black Spade
, he and a couple other collaborators supply some heavy emotional content. On "Everything (Modern Family)," Fattfather
expresses the strain of being away from home to support his family, something to which Shoes can relate: "I been on the road grinding, forced to eat trash/Been in four different climates, tryin' to reach cash/Lack of sleep, complete with jet lag/All I wanna do is hug my kids, and you mad?" For "Castles (The Sky Is Ours)," Shoes repurposes an instrumental granted to a 2009 compilation assembled by the late J1, who is paid an achingly glorious tribute here by fellow close associate Jimetta Rose
: "We sit and talk for hours/You said the sky was ours." This is a complete album wrapped in a cinematic opener and its darker concluding reprise -- a modern theme for the Motor City that is as evocative as Shake
's "Detroit State of Mind."