By Hal Tiffany, Hip-Hop Editor
Blackalicious “Chemical Calisthenics”
Blazing Arrow, the newest release from San Francisco hip-hop duo Blackalicious, is going to be on everyone’s Top 5 Albums of 2002 list, guaranteed. And while there are other tracks on the album that are more musical (and arguably better) than “Chemical Calisthenics”, this track stands out simply because of the pure acrobatic rhyme skill employed by head MC Gift of Gab, as well as the group’s unique timing, musical sounds, and clever scientific references.
Source of Labor “Wetlands”
I officially take back what I’ve been saying about perennially underrepresented Seattle and its flat hip hop scene. Source is the first Sea-Town group worthy of reppin’ the city on a larger scale since the Incredicrew (the best crew to never come out of Seattle, these guys were unfairly slept-on in the big goofy shadow of the 1980’s Sir Mix A Lot craze). You would never guess anyone could pull off the unlikely phrase, “Pacific Northwest, yes y’all we rock fresh” without sounding like a cheesy news magazine introduction. But on “Wetlands”, Source of Labor makes it work. Props to my hometown boys.
Anti-Pop Consortium “Dead in Motion”
“Dead in Motion” draws you deeper into the layers of its dark sound with every hectic and distorted verse. Imagine Organized Konfusion meets the Analog Brothers. As their name suggests, they are against all that is pop and definitely go to great lengths to craft a sound that lives up to this mantra. Unfortunately, while this track is innovative and skilled, the rest of it sounds like E. Blaize (Anti-Pop’s producer) just got a new Moog and was still fascinated with holding down one key for whole measures at a time.
Demigodz “The Gods Must be Crazy”
Samples of stringed instruments typically only induce yawns, but on “The Gods Must be Crazy” the Demigodz’ cinematic string stabs create a car-chase urgency that fits perfectly with their ultra-violent sucka MC slayings. And if you’re one of those suckas, Apathy and Celph Titled are about the last two cats you want to step to. So in case you’ve forgot, the Demigodz let you know on this track that NYC is still the home of the lyrical beat down, Biotch.
Princess Superstar “Bad Babysitter”
Princess Superstar should worry mothers more than any satanic metal band ever did. Why? Because her outrageous naughtiness is sure to make young girls want to be like her and old men want to be with her. Workaholic Kool Keith lends production to this risky, white-girl-gone-bad project. And leave it to Keith to pull it off with a fun concept and a lot more skill than you might expect from a trashy half-Jewish white chick named “Princess.”
Blacksheep “Red Light Green Light”
Don’t call it a comeback; Well, on second thought, DO call it a comeback, as no one’s heard much from Blacksheep in years. Thankfully, “Red Light Green Light” is a whole lot better than other recent comeback attempts (see KRS One, Run DMC). And though it will probably never live up to the brilliance of “Strobelight Honey” or “The Choice is Yours”, Drez successfully brings back his classically energetic rhyming style that feels like a chanting chorus and/or breakdown all the way through the song.
Petey Pablo “I”
Whether you consider Timbaland to be a versatile producer/hit-maker or a pop pandering style chameleon, you can’t deny the draw of his crisp and profitable products. This time, he’s sniffed out the money down south and found North Carolina’s talented and gritty Petey Pablo. Although much of Petey’s new album sounds suspiciously like Outkast, “I” is definitely good enough to satisfy my Atlien jones between albums.
Boom is as trendy a metalrap track as they come, but I’m through with being a hater. Join me in letting go of your anger and jealousy and you’ll see it’s a lot more fun than being a brooding, misunderstood snob. Scoff if you will, but “Boom” makes me want to jump on top of a wobbly table and throw empty beer bottles more than any other song out lately. Bonus points for the Ping Pong video — lets hear it for indoor sports!
Old School Pick of the Month:
T La Rock and Mantronix “Bass Machine”
“Bass Machine” is the best argument for why the Roland TR-808 was, and still is, the best drum machine of all time. Mantronix was by far the best drum programmer of his time as well, and of his many collaborators, T La Rock had the best overall rhyme skills and biggest pedigree thanks to the classic anthem “Yours”. Unfortunately, T La Rock never regained much success after the Mantronix “break-up”; like many mad geniuses, Mantronix was reportedly moody and hard to work with.