New Jersey emcee Crimeapple enlisting New York producer Preservation for his 12th studio LP. Becoming a fan of his in the fall of 2017 with his 4th EP Sweet Dreams along with the Big Ghost Ltd. produced full-length debut Aguardiente that following spring, his profile in the underground grew exponentially from there. Discography standouts include the DJ Skizz-produced Wet Dirt, the DJ Muggs-produced MedalloCartagenaBreakfast in Hradec & Sin Cortar. However coming off a sequel to the Kilómetros EP few months ago, El León to me personally was already destined to become the most I’ve enjoyed Crime’s music in nearly a year & a half.

The title track starts the LP with heavy horns & pianos saying he doesn’t care if he was acquired for your tastes or not whereas “Don’t Mention It” featuring Sadat X keeping it drumless talking about how this shit isn’t a joke to them at all. “Lion vs. Panther” has this crazy vocal flip comparing himself to a lion & everyone else in his way as panthers prior to “Hunting Methods” bringing this infectiously drumless loop flexing that he doesn’t wait in line.

“Melena Dorada” featuring RLX talking about how blessings are all copious over some strings just before “Fumemos” goes into a stripped-back direction dedicating this one to all the smokers. “Camino Solitario” talks about traveling down a lonely road over a boom bap instrumental, but then “Vida Mantequilla” hooks up these kicks & snares with heavy horns having fun with a blonde on a Friday.

The song “Paw Prints in the Sand” wants to know how anyone is qualified to go up against him over a nightly beat while the penultimate track “Quanto Te Quiero” shifts into more delicate territory talking about a romantic interest. Finally to end the album, “Bulevar” is a deadpan closer dodging stress in favor of catching fish on a boat & might even give you some game if you ask him correctly.

It’s been quite some time since I personally have covered a project of Crime’s as his discography tends to be a little hit or miss sometimes, but El León unquestionably lived up to my expectations becoming the most I’ve enjoyed a project of his in a year & a half. Preservation’s predominately drumless production is more consistent than a lot of his output in 2023 & we get a metaphorical beacon for the unyielding hunger that the lyrical predator has always shown.

Score: 9/10