In my search for more consumption of modern Hip Hop I stumbled across this well received record. Its album cover grabbed my attention with its ghostly black and white look, the balaclava implying an air of violence. On my first listen I very nearly turned it off, I was bombarded by boisterous boasting, over exuberant swagger and derogative, demeaning lyrics. I've always understood and accepted that this is a part of Hip Hop, its a window into another world, another lifestyle and I've appreciated that ever since I heard NWA's "Fuck The Police", but this time it felt excessive with no relevance, unlike police brutality. I wasn't keen on the "gangsta gangsta gangsta" chants, but I told myself what I always do, familiarity is key. So I kept listening, the album grew on me with some more charactered songs later on the record and by the time I was listened to the second and third times I was loving the opening track "Gansta".
Modern Hip Hop hasn't shifted its focus to beats, more so its shifted away from the lyrical creativity of past. Repetition, and stylistic inflections have become the focus, further resembling instruments to compliment the instrumentals than tell stories and deliver memorable raps. The most memorable moments on this record were a couple of catchy hooks and a few shocker lines, nothing resembling the past where you could quote an entire verse for its mesmerizing articulation (IE Nas on "Live At The BBQ"). With this in mind I found my enjoyment was a little altered, and I certainly missed a lack of lyrical substance, but theres enjoyment in the catchy hooks, raspy shouts and reverby vocal effects at work alongside the beats. The occasional tracks had some great verses "Hoover Street" & "Break The Bank", and plenty of great choruses throughout.
The beats across this record are fantastic. Theres a lot of variety, and the production feels like it passes through many hands as track to track changes consistently. Describing the direction of this record would be a continual snaking of styles and vibes. The range of influences and moods is a strength, it gives this one a constant excitement as each track jumps to something refreshing different to what came before it. Midway through the record theres a couple of tracks which take on a strong DJ Muggs vibe, firstly "Blind Threats", which samples the classic Cypress Hill "Illusions" or at least its source, and two tracks later "Break The Bank" which has a "Temples Of Boom" vibe with its grooving bombastic beat and simple, repetitive dark keys. It also homes my favorite line "Fuck pigs I bust back" in a sequence of short lines that groove with the beat. This record was really enjoyable, defined by an array of fantastic beats and artistic input from a range of producers and guest features, but a lack of lyrical fidelity across these number just left an empty feeling in my desire to consume the words of lyracists, the chemistry of beats and rhymes is still king.
Favorite Tracks: Collard Greens, Hoover Street, Hell Of A Night, Break The Bank