As a producer, Preservation has established himself as one of the most gifted and consistent artists working today. He’s DJ’ed and worked with Yasiin Bey and Ka, as has produced gems for some of the most gifted emcees ever in RZA, GZA, Raekwon, U-God, MF DOOM, Sean Price, Mach-Hommy, Roc Marciano, KRS 1, Jean Grae and Aesop Rock (amongst many more). He has finally released his highly anticipated album titled Eastern Medicine, Western Illness, and it does not disappoint one bit. Producer albums don’t tend to follow a cohesive narrative, bringing social and political issues to light as a concept album, but this is exactly what Preservation has done with his new album. He produced this album in Hong Kong, a place he knows too well and an area of the world that has been suffering for a while now from a suppressive authoritarian regime. The people of Hong Kong have been protesting against the Chinese Government’s willingness to bring back control of the state, as they try and regain full democratic control, which is currently under threat. Protests have been ongoing, even to this day, and this album is dedicated to everyone who has been fighting that fight, so salute to Preservation for raising awareness on the issue.
The album features a plethora of incredible emcees, and opens with “Dragon Town” with Hong Kong rapper Young Queenz. Though I don’t fully understand his verse as he’s rapping in his native tongue, I feel his passion and anger ripple through the dynamic instrumental. It’s an explosive way to kickstart an album, and the album keeps its introspective and politically charged lyricism. Throughout the project, snippets of documentary-style reporting are sprinkled throughout, giving us an insight into the situation is in Hong Kong. The title itself, Eastern Medicine, Western Illness suggests that the west’s quest for abusive power is becoming corrupted, needing help from Eastern philosophy to survive. It reminds me of Edward Said’s 1978 work on Orientalism, just in the context of Eastern Asia. Preservation’s sampling of oriental sounds throughout the album makes for a meditative and reflective listen, giving each feature a textured, moody soundscape for them to rap over. The gorgeous vocal sample on “Lemon Rinds” is incredible, as billy woods spits a dense and heavy racially charged verse. The parallels between the black struggle and the struggles of the people in Hong Kong are clear throughout the album. On “North Bridge,” Navy Blue states “Waves crashing, the pain lashing, now my shadow on the floor / When I hit ’em I remorse / Tears channeling a force / Face fall on my hands / Clouds pass with the storm / Black boy, it’s okay to mourn / Recognize your growth / In this perspective ever more.” The heaviness of being black in America, especially during this time of civil unrest and protest is really felt throughout this track. A.G.’s verse on the angelic “Children Of Never” is dense and intricate as usual. The flute on “A Cure For The Common” is absolutely gorgeous, and Ka’s verse is absolutely incredible, with a level of introspection and intricate wordplay that is truly incomparable to anyone else. GrandeMarshall, Tree, Quelle Chris, Mach-Hommy, Nickelus F, Roc Marciano and Your Old Droog also bring stellar verses, while Michelle Siu closes the album out poignant vocals and a spoken word piece.
Preservation’s Eastern Medicine, Western Illness is a heavy and cohesive body of work that tackles the issues of authoritarianism and control within Hong Kong and the wider issues of systemic racism throughout the world. Each feature delivers personal verses over Preservation’s moody and textured soundscape, giving different perspectives on life altogether. It’s a fantastic body of work that definitely needs supporting, so go check it out!