In the hip-hop universe, the genre’s more authentic and well-crafted sounds have flourished in Washtenaw County, and no local rap act shines brighter than the organic-minded S.U.N., born Santonio Hughbanks. On The Art of S.U.N., Hughbanks displays his great lyrical talent over a battery of pleasant beats.

Todd Weiser

The aural delight, in part, stems from the album’s deft reliance on instruments. While more popular, synthetic sounds can be found on The Art, most of the record’s flows are delivered over violin, horn, guitar and piano riffs that endow S.U.N.’s effort with soul and reveal its underlying craftsmanship.

Were S.U.N.’s rhyming style and ability inadequate, then the quality of the album’s beats would be insignificant. Luckily, such is not the case, and S.U.N. (Scientific Universal Noncommercial) proves to be a gifted MC, capable of great wordplay and narrative.

“Blaze a Path,” produced by the Lab Technicians and featuring appearances from area MCs OneManArmy and Vital and Buff(1) of Athletic Mic League, is the best example of this awareness, and S.U.N.’s lyricism is perhaps only rivaled by that of his guests, each of whom excels on the politically charged cut.

S.U.N.’s rays of dissention do not solely shine on large-scale institutions and systems. Some of his most poignant verses examine hip-hop, both as an art form and an industry, and S.U.N. defiantly declares, “I’m asking God for spiritual health,” not the material wealth for which so many of his peers pine.

This is not to suggest that The Art is an immaculate album. By the final third, many listeners may become bored by the record’s tempo, one that rarely fluctuates. There is a certain energy not always apparent; few tracks will inspire overwhelming excitement.

These deficiencies do not detract from the record too much. Fans of Tribe, Common, Kweli and the like will find S.U.N.’s style agreeable and his album an organic gem.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

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