The Pakistani Hip-Hop scene is what it is today as a result of the artists who have changed the scenery with their music. Rapper Talha Anjum is an icon the DHH scene is not ready to let go of. With over a decade in the game, Anjum has inspired a long list of well-established artists and has charged up the scene with his intriguing lyricism. Despite the limited resources he had in the beginning, Talha Anjum has created a niche for himself as the legend in the game. With “Open Letter,” Anjum marks his return to his solo career after almost 4 years. This album was highly anticipated and was teased endlessly by the rapper. The project sees Talha Anjum going back to the lab, doing endless drills in the preparation for this album, demonstrating his passion for his art as he writes, “And I still relate to that procrastination for tasks. ‘Cause I need to finish this album.” You can see his efforts from the very first syllable that he spits out, his delivery is better than ever, and he’s out to get everyone that has ever doubted him as a rapper.
Talha Anjum Open Letter Album Review
The 15-track project is packed with stellar features and everyone punches above their weight to create a project that will be regarded as one of the best desi hip-hop albums of 2023. Additionally, with classic cover art that captures all moods of the album, Talha Anjum’s Open Letter maintains all the commended thematic frameworks of a good album while elevating the production, pen game, and delivery to a level where it sounds just incredible. Umair, the young prodigy, produced almost the entire project, refining it even more with his craftsmanship and one song captures Jokhay’s ear-melting melodies. Overall, with this album, Anjum continues to prove his poetic abilities as a lyricist. Many of the songs bring a stripped-down atmosphere.
The opening cut sets the tone for this record with heartfelt poetry and emotionally provoking rapping. As the name suggests, “Melancholy,” captures Anjum’s somber and melancholic reflection. Throughout the song, Talha Anjum taps into storytelling, delivering deep insight into his struggles with love relationships. The cinematic music paired with Anjum’s tight delivery evokes the intensity of the track. Next comes “Happy Hour,” a song that incorporates a mix of Anjum’s two different vibes with Jokhay’s stellar production. This is one of the best-structured compositions on the project, where the first half sees Talha Anjum emotionally pouring out to his listeners and the second half finds him boasting about his legacy in the scene. The classic jazz sample, saxophone instrumental and hard-knock drums maintain the consistent old-school tone throughout, and with the outro, Jokhay proves his solid production skills.
“At The Top” celebrates Talha Anjum’s success and highlights his perception about the position he’s achieved over time. His laid-back delivery over a minimalist instrumental sound good, and he insists that he shouldn’t be underestimated as a force in desi hip-hop. It was a more self-centered record, which I didn’t mind because it’s his project and it should be what he wants to put out; however, there was a little less room to relate – making it a below-average experience on the album. After 3 years, you’re brought back to the killer Quarantine trio. “Touch Base” is particularly powerful – the much-awaited collaboration between Talha Anjum, Talha Yunus, and KR$NA that sees a lyrical marathon among the best of the best. Nevertheless, the only heavy knock on this track is a mix of technical writing and rapid-fire flows. While Umair’s talent should never be in question, the song loses some of its grip as the song progresses. On the other hand, both guest features bring their A-game, with KR$NA stealing the show with his astoundingly complex rhymes. However, his vocal tone could have been improved because it didn’t fit the song well.
“Studio Gangsters” features a guest appearance from Rap Demon, who’s known for his ability to conversationally drop showstoppers, leaving no ear unengaged in his sonic spectrum. Throughout his verse, Rap Demon displays his versatility with lyrical acrobatics to help the song reach the boundaries of flex rap. While Talha Anjum delivers some clever doubles and references, Umair and Superdupersultan uplift the song by switching the beat when it was highly needed. Talha Anjum “Open Letter” has dismissed mainstream music outlets with its core sound. On “Two Tone,” the brutal, merciless Anjum put a whole load of new-generation rappers and his haters on blast throughout the song. While Umair’s tight production with an African-tribal vocal sample and pounding 808s really impress, the anthemic “Haath Baandh” hook stays stuck in your head for the entire day because of Anjum’s crystal clear delivery.
The next song is “False Prophets,” which has a more contemporary feel and features Talha Anjum talking about how evil spirits want to occupy god’s position while teaching false doctrines and pulling each other’s legs for attention. Anjum’s style is more straightforward — and often reaches the unfiltered, blunt moments that “False Prophets” display, but for a good reason. The cut bleeds truth and is an eye-opening song that pushes the bounds of what Pakistani rappers can rap about. “Desperation” is a beautifully written song with an infectious feel and an incredibly crafted beat. It’s a fantastic composition, with Talha Anjum smoothly riding the beat and demonstrating the depth of his penmanship. The track’s soulful mood is emphasized by the lyrics and Anjum’s calming voice, making it a special experience on the project.
Another standout track that feels like the smell of gardenias, “Lost In Time” finds Talha Anjum singing over a nicely composed track that creates a soothing ambiance when you listen to it with no disturbance. It shows the magic of Talha Anjum’s shayari while also providing insight into his personal perspective, as he raps: “Nahi taapi goli gaane likhe dil pe rog hi itne/Kya khushi mein teri shaamil hon jab sog hi itne/kese simat jayen fauri hum barson ke bikhre/Farash bhar chuke hain jaan ab hum arshon pe likh rahe.” Meanwhile, “Kaam Pura” is an old-school gangster rap on which you get a syllable-heavy style that has no problem with calling out the opps and sharing Anjum’s celebrity status. With a distinctive hook, the track is certainly not to everybody’s tastes and perhaps it would go down if played on a radio show, but it’s easy to see why core Anjum fans love him rapping like this.
This has indeed given the listeners an unexpected switch in pace. “Flex” is a mosh pit-inducing new-school record packed with blazing percussion and Talha Anjum’s tight flows. The song kicks off with Umair playing with reverb and as the song reaches its second half, the beat-switch really enhances the vibe. “Glass Half Full” marks the beginning of the album’s best part. While the song possesses a familiar vibe to the “Khanabadosh” zone but is wrapped in Umair’s artistic diversity with the guest appearances of JJ47 and Talha Yunus, its refreshing nature highlights the significance of Lo-Fi tracks on “Open Letter.” I really enjoyed the way the lyrics were paired effectively with some light strings and the wonderful poetry portraying an added degree of emotions, especially JJ47’s part as he raps out: “Dil dadan fir bhi jaam dhundhta hai/kyun ye suraj se mukhatib kya ye shaam dudhta hai?/wo toh roz kare mehnat, inaam dhudhta hai/bade kaam kiye bina bada naam dhudhta hai/lekin maza hai hi thakaan mein/ye lafz bane dard jaisa rehta presaan main/gulshan ke phool murjhane ko pahuche/main aksar bhool jaata paani daalna guldaan mein.”
Unarguably, one of the best tracks on the album, “Downers At Dusk” is a b&w depiction of a lover’s lonely heart. Overall, the composition sees a slower, more thoughtful pacing, with a healthy addition of emotional reflection and love. It is a sonically balanced track, and it helps smooth out the album experience. Anjum’s lyrics over a minimalist piano-guitar instrumental really stood out to me on this record. The penultimate cut “Secrets” features the best hook on the entire album, demonstrating a vastly different side of Talha Anjum. The melody-driven track finds him singing, which is one of his greatest strengths when it comes to set him apart from the plethora of rap artists. Ultimately, the album finishes its run with the title track, “Open Letter,” which noticeably resembles Eminem’s “Stan.” However, Anjum’s impressive performance and creative writing underscored the significance of this song. The track finds Talha Anjum having a direct conversation with his real supporters. The combination of cinematic sounds and vocal samples leaves you speechless, filled with profound emotions and goosebumps.
Now that’s off my chest. Not every track hits but Talha Anjum’s “Open Letter” is diverse, and each track has a distinct flavor, yet his improved delivery, flow, lyrics, and cadence make you feel as though he belongs to each beat. And that’s what makes him one of the most skilled contemporary rappers in DHH. All told, it feels like one of the most prolific releases of the year.