Since their beginning as a group, 3rd Dimension has been known for an assortment of instrumentals and hard-hitting, no nonsense lyricism.

What they may have lacked, depending on who you ask, is an artistic identity. On previous releases, they’ve tested waters. They’ve navigated different kinds of hip-hop, from instrument-heavy soul beats and atmospheric trip-hop to more conventional New York-style flows. They’ve exhibited clear talent, but have, deliberately or not, chosen not to channel it in any particular direction.

That is, until they released Limits last week. The nine-track LP is a quick ride, but boy is it a good one. On the album, the members of 3rd Dimension rap over minimalist beats, which the group’s producers truly outdid themselves on.

Some songs are haunting, others ethereal, but a reoccurring motif throughout the album is that each beat features minimal components — usually just a snare-heavy beat, synth or keys pattern.

Courtesy of 3rd Dimension

This stylistic decision allows for the album to excel in two areas. First, the minimalist nature of the beats allows each member’s flow and style to take center stage.

Second, it allows for each track to have a definitive mood. It’s immediately evident which tracks are darker and which are lighter. It’s easy for the lyrics to accentuate or crash with the beat.

This is immediately evident on the album’s first track, “Violence.” A trippy Neo-Tokyo style beat clashes perfectly with each emcee’s take on different kinds of violence.

From there, it transitions directly to “Stain.” On the track, the group’s members blend their verses together with clever lyricism, employing the neat homophones “stain” and “staying.”

The differences between each emcee in 3rd Dimension might be the group’s greatest strength. Each member possesses different styles, yet they all exhibit the teamwork necessary to ensure no one speaks over another. Instead, a robust contrast occurs like the ingredients in a gourmet meal.

As the album progresses, the misty atmospheric nature of the album continues, up until “Fleauxt (Outro)” where the group returns to a more conventional yet still fairly barren beat.

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To make an album where there’s no groovy, poppy beats to hide behind is a bold move for 3rd Dimension, and it’s one that paid off. Even “Sip Slow,” perhaps the track with the most mainstream appeal, relies heavily on each member and Supa Bwe’s ability to sing-rap melodically.

With Limits, 3rd Dimension bet the house on their lyricism, and they pretty much hit the jack-pot. It’ll be interesting to see whether they continue to define themselves in this manner on future projects or if they branch out in a different direction.

Regardless, Limits is major benchmark in the growth of the local artists. We can only hope it will end up being a platform from which they launch off from.