‘Had A Million Downloads’ is the latest album by Auckland-based underground hip hop act PHD. Formed in 2004 as PotHeaDs, the group began going by PHD in 2010 in an effort to solidify themselves as one of the country’s most hard-hitting acts.
No strangers to the rap game, PHD has supported the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Mobb Deep and Tech N9ne, performing over 100 times around NZ.
The title can be seen as a metaphor for the group’s established success. Speaking on what has been achieved, and what is yet to be conquered, PHD’s album is as authentic as it is powerful.
The duo of T13 and Anime explore life on the come up, and how they’ve managed to set themselves apart in the music industry. ‘Had A Million Downloads’ is a refreshingly real take on success, the album layered with clever punchlines and hard hitting bars, coupled with gritty production that flows smoothly between the nine tracks
PHD are at their best on the album when they forgo overcomplicated rhyme schemes and instead ride the beat with fast and punchy bars. We can see this in Flame On, which brings the album’s idea of success and authenticity perfectly to fruition. With a melodic synth and scratching standing out in the instrumental this a track truly reminiscing the grit of old-school ‘90s rap.
It isn’t perfect however, the album’s first half often getting confused in what it is trying to do. Although it can be refreshing to hear variation within a project, ‘Had A Million Downloads’ has most of its low points when it tries just that.
On How We Run It, PHD look to try and parody some of the modern trap rap, perhaps in an effort to say, ‘See, we can do this better.’ The auto-tuned and pitch corrected vocals seem somewhat lost within the album and fall short of the mark.
The group’s experience speaks for itself and the album’s second half sees PHD return to their authentic best. A project that has it faults, but a project that leaves you wanting another listen regardless.