“These enemies, got me fiending for the motherfucking end of me.”
—Madd Hatter

Florida-born — Chicago-native — Madd Hatter delivers an alternative to the bulk of music you find making the rounds these days. For one, his music is seemingly personal, with first person accounts that are believable and relatable in many ways. Secondly, his actual patterns and rhyme schemes play out as a subtle nod to 90s acts like Saffir and The Freestyle Fellowship; he delivers a pseudo def-poetry pace of over packed bars that are slightly off while staying confusingly on beat. Ok — let’s delve in. The project, Mental Skillness, is best summed up by the artist himself in passing, “a bipolar musical experience.” The project is a conceptual piece that follows the highs and rock bottom lows of the artist himself. The part that elicits discussion is the fact that this is an open exploration of mental illness (albeit to a light degree)– an over-suffered under diagnosed issue in today’s society. So this trip through his mind shouldn’t be openly alluded to be the mind of an addict. The tone and artwork do make it easy to let your mind connect dots that aren’t there.

The album, according to Madd Hatter, starts off dark and slowly brightens up before reverting to its original state — a hornet that closely mimics the journey of many suffering mental illness, who are simply one L away from a spiral. He got the atmosphere of the situation correct, from a sonic point of view. The beats, when they are dark, are full of piano chops, and bassy emotion. Things gradually lighten up, and at one point, even jazzy with a neo-soul on the project t highlight [IMO], “Destiny,” one of two records that features guest rappers. Other highlights include the opener, “Stained Memoriez,” describes the loss of love that casts a [darker than normal] cloud over his mental state. He goes on to tell his story using the device of letter-writing on the clever “Pendemic.” “Bex Therapy” is a solid listen, as well, right up there with the smokers anthem, “Contact High.”

On the whole, it’s a solid effort. I think that maybe the overall vibe — while very honest — doesn’t come off as dark or manic as the mantra and artwork suggest. That’s not a bad thing, but I wouldn’t put this in a box with acts like “Gravediggaz,” or even young Eminem. They loosely dealt with similar (although unchecked) degrees of mental turmoil, but often churned out music that was more shocking, and in the case of Gravediggaz, more horror-core. I would, however, classify this as an alternative project, especially based on his city. It ain’t trap, it ain’t backpacker. It’s good music; unfiltered with artistic value.