Ohio rapper Copywrite and California rapper Planet Asia team up to present Unfinished & Untitled, an 11-track studio album that espouses their status in the hip-hop machine.

The working class rapper occupies a unique space in the hip-hop landscape. More frequently referred to as underground, these performers can sellout moderately sized venues and provide for their families without the glitz and glamour of the rap star, all while ignoring the temptations luring struggle rappers and up-and-comers back to potentially detrimental lifestyles. Copywrite and Planet Asia embrace their working class lifestyle on a set lasting just over half-an-hour with features from Tage, U-God, Tri State and more.

The combination of Copywrite and Planet Asia is remarkably consensual; both rappers are tried and true lyricists, with Copy’s debut, The High Exalted and Planet’s entrance, Still in Training both releasing in 2002. Since then both have accumulated beefy discographies that lend credence to their claims on Unfinished & Untitled. The intro track, “Conversation,” plays up their satirical approach to the music industry with Planet at one point saying, “I don’t even like rap,” in response to the interviewer’s question. This sentiment, along with others, carries an understanding to their roles in hip-hop as working class rappers. As much as Copy and Planet are financially working class (in comparison to major label artists) they also manage their artistry as a craft not unlike the shoe smith or woodworker. Largely each bar on Unfinished & Untitled, similar to each beam of a house or strip of leather on a boot, serves a purpose in designing their images as well as their stance on the direction of modern hip-hop.

At times, given the standing of Copywrite and Planet Asia as well as the time of release, certain lines appear directed at Drake, the Patois Prince, and his latest album (playlist?) More Life. On “Big Business” Copywrite raps, “Soundtrack to my life, I don’t need an iPod,” seemingly direct shots at the OVO representative’s intentions for More Life to be a, “collection of songs to become the soundtrack to your life.” Other references to pop rappers, though generally applicable to a variety of artists are particularly poignant considering the release date.

Despite being a cohosted album, Copywrite and Planet Asia largely stay in their own lanes on verses, forgoing trading bars back and forth for meticulously crafted lines and wordplay. Both, as well as guest features Tri State and Ill Burns profess a penchant for punchlines and genuinely humorous takes, like on “Volume Dial Goes to 11” (feat. Ill Burns) on which Copywrite raps, “give cancer to a blunt, answers to a monk, confuse the GPS when I’m standing in the front,” or on “Big Business” when Planet Asia says, “You old folks need to train your daughters, that’s why I’m at the strip club making it rain with quarters.” Of course some of these bars are far from groundbreaking, but the imagery of Planet hurling quarters upon a stripper is amusing nonetheless.

On the production side, the boombap flavor and punchy basslines complement the artists’ equally punchy delivery. A galloping beat on “Our Everyday” (feat. Tri State) is decorated with synth strings that bounce along Tri State’s verse rife with onomatopoeia and alliteration. “Crocodile Smile” (feat. U-God) is an uptempo groove featuring funky horns and clean bass that gives way to a scratched up hook harkening back to hip-hop of yesteryear. Ode to Chuck Berry is the most disharmonious of the tracks albeit understandably considering its presentation on a fictional rock station. Still, the duo’s destructive lyrics fit the production agreeably.

On the whole, Copywrite and Planet Asia are well inside their comfort zones sonically throughout the project. The underground charm of calling out “wack rappers” and downing dark liquors is refreshing amidst current arguments deriding the death of real hip-hop.

Interested? Stream and Purchase the album on Bandcamp.