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Standout Track: No. 10, “Other Side of the Line (Anita).” The Cornel West Theory kicked off 2016 in style, with a new album, which dropped just three months after its last one. The T.A.B.L.E. was inspired by DJ Premier and Royce da 5’9”’s 2014 project PRhyme, and that boom-bap hip-hop influence is evident throughout.

Musical Motivation: Full of scratch- and sample-heavy production, T.A.B.L.E. is a side-step from the group’s more raucous and writhing anti-establishment fare. The “Anita” of the song’s title is a nod to the chopped and reconstructed Chapter 8 sample that lays the sonic foundation. The Anita Baker–led track is best known for its use in Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “1st of tha Month,” although the loop here is less obvious and sets forth a groove that’s moody without being dark and heavy. 

“Just to Let a Brotha Know What’s Happenin’”: Sampled lines from Lords Of The Underground stand in for a chorus here, setting the tone for the societal critiques and personal anecdotes rappers Rashad Dobbins and Tim Hicks offer in their respective verses. Dobbins’ poetic stream of consciousness warns against complacency and misplaced priorities, reminding us that “evil only wins cuz you thinkin’ it’s sweet.” On the second verse, Hicks walks us through some of what he says are “real life experiences that have taken place in our lives over the past year.” Although the hardships are apparent, so it is the underlying thread of perseverance and striving. “It’s about the continued struggle,” Hicks says. “About smiling, fighting, laughing, crying your way thru, but never stopping.”