Underground legend C-Rayz Walz releases his album Year of The Beast after having gained his reputation in the New York underground as a member of the crew STRONGHOLD. He was battling MCs left, right and centre but now C-Rayz steps up and proves he's not just a one trick pony. Battle MCs rarely hold my attention for a full length album, I want self expression and lyrical content, not a list of different ways to say "I'm better than you." But C-Rayz Walz is as philosophical (read "deep") as he is witty. MCs can't fault him, his full length album is a tour de force of story rhymes, punch-lines and complicated flows. I actually found his voice slightly annoying at first but I was won over by his charm and originality.
Not satisfied with merely pushing lyrical boundaries C-Rayz Walz has enlisted creative producers who push musical boundaries. Unlike many MCs who emerge form the New York underground scene the music is not pretentious, it is more funky than experimental but it is more fresh than generic.
First Words Worse, featuring El P is pure quality. Cheeky punch-lines like “while I’m on the toilet with an L? My shit is smoking”, thought provoking lines “I wanna speak out, my label keeps getting my invoice” and a jazzy beat that is a compulsory head nodder. El P smacks it harder than he ever did as part of Company Flow “I face fuck a bitch, squat and lace anal compartments.” I beg your pardon?
Knowledge exhibits C-Rayz ability to tell a story in rhyme while at the same time establishing his ghetto credentials. Quite deliberately the hook for Walkthrough brings in both the highbrow and the street, “I walk through the ghetto holding my dic… tionary,” nice. The beat uses the combination of authentic old skool Hip-Hop drums and futuristic sound effects that label mates Canibal Ox utilised for most of their album The Cold Vein.
I was put off by the obvious G-Funk influence on The Rhyme Intervention, however the lyrics are so impressive I have to give it more time before I can pass judgement.
There are a couple of tracks that musically do not move me at all. Pink is more cheerful than most of the album, even though the subject matter is about wannabe thugs. It’s a familiar subject but one he tackles with more originality than most. “It ain’t 2Pac’s fault, your just followers.” Tell them. “Bullet proof vest man? You need D cups!” He’s a very cheeky MC.
These are eclipsed however by Paradise and Black Soap which show an MC at his most reflective. Paradise has the the call to arms “I command you to riot – and overthrow your minds” and “watch the Bush’s, patriot games get prolonged.”
Black Soap features M-1 of Dead Prez. They trade stories and give an insightful look at what it means to be a black man in modern America. There’s a definite Public Enemy influence.
Limited Edition includes a DVD which features nine songs recorded live at B.B. King's, New York, New York.
7Kevin Panton's Score