Album Review: Dark Lo & Harry Fraud – Borrowed Time

[Next; 2021]

This is music of experience. Dark Lo has just about seen it all: in out of the prison system, he wasn’t focused, in the least, on music as a possible out. That is, until he met AR-Ab. Perhaps most known nationwide for either a Drake shoutout in the infamous Meek Mill diss “Back to Back”, Ab is better put into perspective for just what he is: a hometown hero to Philly.

Ab is also looking down the barrel of a 45 year sentence. Dark Lo has himself become ensnared, looking to speak up for his mentor, penning a letter to the man who flipped in the ensuing criminal trial, he found himself accused of witness tampering, leading to a further charge of illegal firearm possession. After contracting COVID-19 while locked up awaiting trial, he was made to wait on house arrest, permitted to leave his residence for only one hour a day.

So, you see, when he named his project with producer Harry Fraud Borrowed Time, it was certainly a loaded statement. There’s hardly a wilder story in recent hip-hop history than this one. It’s most ready comparison is arguably that of another Philly legend: Beanie Sigel’s own pre-sentencing album, his career best The B.Coming.

Borrowed Time splits its length between rumination, paranoia, and sheer menace. Lo is perhaps at his best leaning into the latter – see early highlight “Premonition” – but he proves a deft hand at the sort of accurate street reporting that heads flip over.

Fraud, for his part, acquits himself well. Clearly chasing after the unreachable trail of The Alchemist, he’s doubled his collaborative efforts, expanding from handy Curren$y sidekick and Rick Ross secret weapon towards working with a variety of MC’s across breezy, tight efforts. He’s had a busy 2021. Riding high off his recent work with Benny the Butcher (not to mention the already underrated Fraud Department with Jim Jones), working with Dark Lo is about the most interesting, unexpected linkup the producer could have managed. At times the beats are more serviceable than remarkable, but it’s refreshing to see him somewhat deconstructing ‘the Harry Fraud sound’ in favor of what suits Lo.

Some of his simplest gestures here hit the hardest, such as the juxtaposition of a prickly guitar riff offset by a more typical, if you will, Fraud-ian sax line on opener “Daily Prayers”, or the placement of a muddy, rugged beat with a near-celebratory vocal sample on “Shots Fired”. Amusingly, the closest he comes to Alchemist’s neighborhood is also likely the biggest home run for the producer here: the eerie, in your face backdrop for the aforementioned “Premonition”. Other tracks, such as “Missing Summers”, are stark in their simplicity. Not that it matters when you’ve lined up Boldy James as your guest (his verse is, needless to say, an immediate highlight).

Much like his mentor (who memorably appears on lead single “Vultures”), Lo may be facing serious jail time, but he doesn’t let it slow him down on Borrowed Time. Much like the title implies, he knows full well this is a moment in the spotlight he might not get again any time soon. “I love you, you took a chance with me,” he utters, seemingly to everyone and no one particular at once. Surely to Harry and AR-Ab, and perhaps to all the rest of us, too. Purely for turning up, for listening. These are words he absolutely felt the need to share, after all. Tune in while we still can.