Thursday, October 30, 2008

East Coast Revival Part Deux

Towards the beginning of the month I dropped a review for Termanology’s solo debut – all my Seattle folks be sure to come out next Wednesday (11/5) for the Meth & Red show, Term will be opening! That review was intended to kick off some features on some albums that, in my opinion, are helping bring back that classic sound the east coast is known for.

One such crew would be Jedi Mind Tricks and their extended family the Army of Pharaohs, check out the two crew albums and I can recommend the first two JMT records, after that things get suspect. While my ears have given up on enjoying Paz’s rhymes (All I can say about Jus is that every recent verse I’ve heard is terrible) he put on his homies back in ’04 and I can say without a doubt that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every release from the duo known as Outerspace since.

Unlike their frequent collaborator, Planetary and Crypt the Warchild are great emcees who can ride a beat to perfection. The Pharaohs crew has a strong team of beat makers behind them and while Stoupe has been MIA (I’m copping the new JMT record just for his audio masterpieces) as of late they wasted no time finding the next generation of aspiring cinematic producers.

Taking a cue from their mentor’s records they drop several instrumental interludes throughout the album all of which help the record flow and work as great segue’s between tracks. Sake is responsible for these constructions and while it’s dope to have beats to enjoy from him, you have to be disappointed you don’t get to hear Planet and Crypt rock over at least one of them.

Luckily Sake isn’t the only one with heat here as Seattle’s own MTK has three contributions including the first (lyrical) track “Hail Mary” where he lays down multiple keyboard synths and a rolling drum pattern for Planet and Crypt to “use the mic as the brush to paint their diction” over.

If it wasn’t obvious after yesterday, I like me some posse cuts and while that is what the AoTP albums really are, the off shoot projects (like this right here) are always good for a couple bangers to. Undefined laces the first with Doap Nixon & Mr. Arnell joining the brothers for some rough, rugged and raw hip hop goodness that can only be laid down where the sun rises.

Given the affiliation you expect all of this though. The beauty in this record is a bit deeper. Crypt and Planetary spend much of the album addressing topics we can all relate to and the frustrations that come along while on our road of life. “Lost Battles” is my shit right now for so many reasons (Reef? Well used samples? Bumping drums?) but above all it comes down to the realness they spit about the struggle to survive off whatever money you can hustle. When was the last time you heard an emcee admit that he can’t afford that fresh fitted, or new pair of JO’s he is rocking?

They question American culture, the culture that labels them less given their racial background, but still admit the pride they hold in their country and they look at how to reconcile the obvious contradiction. This ability to find a balance is extended throughout the album consistently pushing the bounds of what one might expect from their crew, but still remaining true to their roots.

This is exemplified best by the tribute to Nicko, Crypt’s son (I believe). Here he breaks down the struggle new parents face and the pain that it can cause i.e. his marriage falling apart. But in the same verse he proclaims his love for his family and his desire to work through the hard times. It is in these moments of real life that you can appreciate their honesty and feel the strength of their words.

But beyond the serious topics, Crypt and Planetary demonstrate their passion for the art throughout the album whether it is on some braggadocios Hip Hop shit or on some from the heart honesty.

The love don’t pay
Hip Hop won’t
So I keep it real when you say I don’t.
If you didn’t get enough of that boom bap from the OS crew I got more for you! Another member of the AoTP extended fam is Boston’s own Esoteric and while he and his partner 7L have been laying down that classic east coast goodness for a minute now he took a break from his usual duties to team up with fellow emcee trademarc and DC the Midi Alien (frequent AoTP beatmaker) to form the East Coast Avengers. If it isn’t obvious from the crew’s name, this album was the whole inspiration to me for this idea of looking at some good new east coast Hip Hop.

Prison Planet is filled with a wide range of beats from DC as he demonstrates a plethora of styles. No matter the style though, from the opening drum break (anyone know it? Kanye flipped it last year) the Midi Alien proves that he is firmly rooted in the diggin’ in the crates aesthetic I dream of more producers picking up on.

Our old friend Termanology comes through here along with Apathy to deliver some “Vengeance” on wax. They also pull Freddie Foxx out of nowhere to open the album with the title cut, and in typical Bumpy Kucks fashion his gruff voice and smooth NY flow make it an instantly replay-able track.

But beyond the guests, and a couple more pop up, Eso and trademarc are more than capable of holding down emceeing duties. On the lead single “Kill Bill O’Reilly” they one up Nas calling for the head of the conservative talk show host and demonstrate their knowledge and attention to detail for the fools lies and misinformation.

The political commentary doesn’t vanish after their open letter to Bill though as they go in over some sad strings on “Too Much To Ask” breaking down their discontent with the state of affairs throughout the country, the political process, and our biased media sources. As the closing vocal sample states, their loyalty lies with the country not to those who claim to have our best interests at heart while steady making money off of us.

Celph Titled proves he is still the always entertaining emcee on the pounding “East Coast Overdose” brought to life even more so courtesy of some expert cuts by Statik Selektah and filled to the brim with punchlines and battle rhymes for all the weak emcees out. While this is what these guys are known for, they don’t rely on their laurels for the album pushing different ideas and concepts on multiple tracks.

On “Torture Rack” DC laces a great beat with that has to be heard to comprehend, but it’s unlike any other track present. As the album begins to hit the closing stretch they bring their political rhymes back into play first with King Magnetic on “Riot Act” spitting over a looped up chick humming they get a little grimy and make it known they won’t stand down to anyone.

Over what may be the Alien’s best beat filled with dusty drums, guitars and a slick piano riff Esoteric and trademarc trade rhymes on “Hey America” about all their grievances towards the power structure and our need driven culture.

Hey America
I don’t understand your whims
You’re so grim
With all your sadomasochist grins
And double chins
Gluttony is the least of your sins
You’re the bane of existence
My sanity is wearing so thin
And so is my resistance
To everything you’ve ever been
It’s crawling under my skin
It’s really sinking in
Prozac nation
A patient with no patience
After this it’s only right that they plot the revolution and every so subtly they do just that on the grim but amusing “The Trouble with Motorcades.” Being careful not to say anything that might turn them into the latest victim of the Patriot act, the well constructed song demonstrates just how fully they are disgusted with the current administration and how one could go about rectifying the wrongs.

I embody the soul of Saudi soliders.
Damn.

If that isn’t from the heart, what else could be? Throughout the album we are provided two emcees take on what we have all witnessed over the last eight years. To quote everyone’s favorite hater, Byron Crawford, the album is filled with “not-particularly-astute-and-yet-completely-spot-on political analysis.”

And the beats knock! So do yourself a favor and get down with some of the east coasts future.

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