Volume 93, Issue 31

Tuesday, October 26, 1999


Tango not entirely bad

BATS sinks fangs into predictability

Grand Theatre launches new fundraising efforts

Mos Def, Choke come out strong

Mos Def, Choke come out strong

Mos Def
Black On Both Sides
Rawkus Records

Forget everything you think a hip-hop record should sound like before listening to this album – it defies the genre.

Just when you think there's no such thing as innovation left in the soundscape, Mos Def tears down the walls and brings a new flavour to the mix. Very few MCs come close to Mos Def and on Black On Both Sides – he shows just how refreshingly diverse he can be.

Most of the tracks on the album differ in style from the conventional fare, yet they fit together perfectly because of the elevated consciousness the music brings to one's ear. Some may be wary of giving this album a listen, since most heads don't want to be challenged with something new.

The tracks range from the straight hip-hop of "Ms. Fat Booty" and "Speed Law," to soulful stylings like "Umi Says." The song sure to throw most off is "Rock N Roll," a track produced by Psycho Les (of the Beatnuts) which comes with an unconventional punk flavour. However, all one has to do is listen to the lyrics to understand what he's talking about and see how it fits in.

Additional production is handled by all kinds of rap luminaries. Mr. Khaliyl, 88 Keys, Diamond D, Ayatollah, DJ Premier of Gang Starr and even Mos himself drop dope beats to compliment the smooth flow of every verse he spits.

While guests on the album are few, the emphasis thankfully appears to be on quality rather than quantity. Q-Tip, Black Star partner, Talib Kweli and Busta Rhymes all seem to elevate their styles when they share the mic with Mos Def.

Do yourself and the rest of the hip-hop community a favour and buy this album. It's like nothing you've ever heard and should not be missed.

–Marco Sdao

Smallman Records

As the title suggests, Choke is taking a step Foreword musically.

With this latest effort, these Edmonton natives re-assert their position as one of Canada's most intense and creative bands. Their sound, a heavy blend of fast paced palm muting and complex drum beats, is augmented nicely by a compelling and uniquely expressive lead singer referred to only as Jack. The result is an intense album which is both innovative and distinct.

All the songs on the album come like quick slaps in the face which leave a permanent mark. "Recoil," the first single, starts the album off in full force by demonstrating the band's technical ability and establishing a tone for the rest of the album. The next track, "Perfect Plastic," combines harmonies and sustained yelling over top of a wailing guitar line.

"More Than One Opponent" stirs up emotions with heart-filled dissonance and a fast-paced beat and "One Less Thing At A Time" is an acoustic explosion, utilizing the very soul of the album. The latter is comprised of one acoustic guitar, accompanied by Jack and a heavy dose of human expression.

Upon first listen, Foreward might sound repetitive. However, with repeated play, the tracks become more distinctive and unique. One of the things which makes this album great is it's literally impossible to get the full effect of any one song by only listening to it once.

The CD's major weakness may be that it's just too intense for the average music listener – Foreword is a taxing record from start to finish. Current fans of hard core emotional music should consider this album a must-have. It is by far one of Canada's greatest achievements in music in a long time.

–Dale Wyatt

No Limit

When listening to a No Limit album, you expect two things – lots of guest appearances and mediocre beats. Thuggin,' the debut album from the newest No Limits Soldier, Magic, is quite different as guest spots are relatively few and far between and the effort is actually laced with some hot beats.

Although the above deviations from the stagnant No Limit formula are refreshing, they are not enough to salvage the album. They do, however, make for a truly interesting ride.

The CD features some tracks where Magic shines brighter than the flashy cover of his album – usually when he is carried by the major players at No Limit. Examples of these better efforts are "Keep It Gangsta" and "We Gon' Ride," accompanied by fellow Soldiers Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder, respectively.

When Magic is responsible for carrying the whole song, however, one gets the feeling he's in way over his head. This immaturity can be seen on the track "Freaky" with labelmate Ms. Peaches, who seems almost bored while singing with the laborious Magic.

Aside from the guests, the saving grace of this album is the beats – handled by the production teams of Deadly Soundz and Beats by the Pound. The two outdo themselves, saving songs like "Ice On My Wrist," "Wobble, Wobble" and "Club Thang" by running basslines and background bells.

All in all, Thuggin' is listenable, but not exactly destined to blaze up the charts. With his ability to read the beat and rhyme smoothly on the hook, the best work to be heard from Magic in the future is on compilation albums. Another solo album should be put off until he is able to carry a song on his own.

–Daniel Baker

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Copyright The Gazette 1999