It’s been over a month since I last dropped a review (Deified by Keak Da Sneak), but SBK is back in the building back at the ‘fro. Since my time away in dealing with summer hell aka Summer School, I’ve been keeping an eye up on nappyafro and an ear out on the music. Being the Hip-Hop head that I am, I’m an active listener of the underground scene far more than the commercial bullshit that’s released. I almost let this release slip by me, but thanks to a good friend that put me on to it (Props to King Jerm), I was introduced to one of my new favorite albums this year. This is a bold statement, but if I were up to me this would be a top contender for album of the year for 2008 (calm down C3 fans and Untitled/N.I.G.G.E.R. enthusiast). I’m going to explain to you very clearly why Reks has one of the best albums of ’08 in Grey Hairs for both underground and mainstream.
Produced by Blaze P
The album is announced with Reks and his son Isiah giving us a proper introduction before the nicely laced beat by Blaze P kicks in. Blaze P does this track correctly with a beat that makes you take notice and has a “Now introduction” feel to it. Reks proceeds to drop rhymes explaining the title of the album and how it applies to getting older and gaining knowledge. This is a great way to start off the album and has my attention for the rest to come.
Produced by Statik Selektah
The opening statement on this song is perfectly placed, as “This is not a song for the radio”. Statik Selektah (who produces a majority of the album) does a nice job on the beat for Reks who in turn drops some vicious, hard hitting rhymes on top of it. While this song could have some commercial appeal to it, mainstream wouldn’t be ready or capable of understanding the depth of this track and Reks’ lyrics.
Produced by DJ Premier
This beat produced by the legendary DJ Premier is the first single for the album and makes a statement upon the first listen. While DJ Premier is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) producers of all-time and I’m one of his biggest fans, I must admit that this beat is not one of his best. The beat does its job though in providing a classic boom-bap backdrop for Reks to get loose on and drop some nice rhymes. This song is perfect for the current state of the rap game with the classic 90’s Hip-Hop feel that it has.
How Can It Be
Produced by Statik Selektah
I’ve heard that this is the second single for the album and it’s definitely a nice selection. Statik Selektah produces a wonderful beat with a sample filled with various synths included. Reks is able to do his thing and drop some nice lyrics within. I love the DJ Premier technique that Statik incorporates on the chorus with the scratched vocal samples.
Produced by Large Professor
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the album is taken up another level with this track. Large Professor laces this track very nicely with a beat that compliments Reks’ rhymes. Reks does his thing in talking about the rap game in 3 different stages (past, present, and future) and how it has changed. The Nas scratched vocals on the chorus make the song that much better. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album so far.
All In One (5 Mics)
Featuring Lil’ Fame; Produced by Blaze P
This is one of the most creative songs I have heard in a while with its concept of Reks rapping the styles of 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and Big L. Blaze P really makes this track come alive (no pun intended) with his hectic, lively beat pounding in the background. While this is a clever track, Reks doesn’t exactly hit the mark on all of the verses representing the deceased legends of the rap game. His verses of 2Pac and Big Pun are on point and give you the spirit of hearing them actually rapping on the track. His verses of Biggie and Big L aren’t directly on and could have been done a bit better. I think this track would have been even better if he had other artists featured on it that could match the individual styles even better like Termanology for Big Pun and so on. But overall this is still a vicious track and most creative one I’ve heard since Lil Wayne’s “Dr. Carter” in terms of concept and theme.
Next 2 Me
Produced by DC The Midi Alien
DC The Midi Alien, who used to frequently collaborate with Termanology, provides a nice beat to Reks for this track. The pulsating beat in the background fits well with Reks’ lyrics as he talks about how many rappers in the industry don’t have enough skills to stand next to him and be compared to him as an emcee. This is an average track at best and it brings down the intensity level of the album following the previous track.
Money On The Ave
Featuring Skyzoo; Produced by Soul Theory
This soulful based track, produced by Soul Theory, provides a nice mood to the rhymes spit by Reks and Skyzoo. They both tell about how artists are no longer making money in the music industry and how the real money is being made on the block and on the corner selling drugs. This song is great for the truth and reality that is presented in the lyrics.
Black Cream (The Negro Epidemic)
Featuring Big Shug; Produced by Statik Seletkah
This is a concept track as it’s best with Reks speaking more truth from inside of the booth. The cleverly titled track “Black Cream” talks about how Blacks are carelessly spending their money and how money is the epidemic facing African-Americans. The chorus on this song is superb and speaks just as well as the rhymes in the verse (“From chains to whips, to chains and whips/Hopped off the slave ships and into fly kicks”). This song is presented in a similar vein of the tracks on Nas’ recently released Untitled/N.I.G.G.E.R. album. These are the type of songs that need to be released more often as they truly speak on many of the issues and problems that Blacks are facing in America. (Check out Black In America on CNN, it’s some real talk for your ears. It’s a shame though that we see a show speaking on the problems facing Blacks in America on CNN, but not on a Black network like BET…WTF is really going on!? I guess 106 & Park and Hell Date are more important and pay the bills. That’s fucked up!)
Love Sweet Misery
Produced by Statik Seletkah
Statik Seletkah channels the same vibe that he had on the previous song in producing another gloomy sampled beat that fits nicely with Reks. I never realized how nice of a producer Statik Selektah really is. He’s gotta be one of the best upcoming producers in the game especially on the underground scene. Reks does a nice job in giving his explanation of love and how it’s somehow connected to misery in most cases.
Produced by Statik Selektah
This is another nicely produced beat by Statik Selektah, who provides another mild mood beat for Reks to drop some furious rhymes on top of. Reks really shows why he’s one of the nicest upcoming emcees in the game today in talking about rising above the obstacles and oppositions that we face in life. Reks really makes listeners take notice with lines like “Bumped into shorty bopping down the ave nearly half my size/Chain dangling Jesus piece, but eyes that lack understanding to the reason he rise/Rather rose on the third, stopped him for a word to guide”. It lyrics like that which really make you stop and think.
Featuring Jon Hope & Lucky Dice; Produced by Statik Selektah
Damn, Statik Selektah keeps on supplying this heat on this album and drops his best beat on this song. This somber song is perfect with Reks and Jon Hope dropping rhymes about having hope and viewing like through telescope eyes to see farther and more than just what is in front of you in life. This song is something that could be played on radio and make the charts, but mainstream wouldn’t accept a great song of this caliber with such a strong message. It really sucks, but it’s reality that something has to be changed about that cause we need more songs like this to be heard instead of the newest track about money, cash, cars, clothes, and hoes. This is another one of my favorite songs on this album, matter of fact it’s my favorite track.
Produced by Statik Seletkah
Once again Statik Seletkah provides a great beat for Reks to drop some intelligent and meaningful lyrics on. With this track Reks talks about relationships in how the first day might be bad, but the second day presents the opportunity for it to get better. Reks does a nice job in not presenting this track like a typical relationship/love song and going against the grain in terms of the topic.
Featuring Termanology & Consequence; Produced by Statik Selektah
Wow, Statik is the man coming through with yet another nice track for this song. The mellow mood of the beat really compliments the verses from Reks, Consequence, and Termanology. They all do a great job in rhyming about starting your life over again from scratch and doing things differently the second time around. This is a nice track in regards to the theme of life reflection.
Featuring Paula Campbell; Produced by Blaze P
This time around it’s Blaze P who come back to bless Reks with a nicely produced piano driven beat. This is another life reflection type track from Reks with him talking about trying to figure out his life paired with a nice chorus sung by Paula Campbell. This track fits perfectly with mood of the previous few tracks.
Produced by Statik Seletkah
This next song keeps that mood going along with Statik Seletkah providing yet another soulful background for Reks to spit his lyrics over. This song has the same vibe of Jay-Z’s “Song Cry” as Reks speaks about his mother giving birth to him at the age of 17 and the things she had to go through at such a young age. He also talks about his life as a child in growing up in a poor environment and the things surrounding him. Reks does a nice job of the interpolation of 2Pac’s song “Brenda’s Got A Baby” in the chorus that really sums up the song and makes it full circle.
Produced by 1914
This song, provided with a beat produced by 1914, sees Reks talking about meeting up with those he hasn’t seen in a long while and maintain relationships with the real people in his life. This is a nice song of Reks doing some reminiscing about his past experiences with friends.
Big Dreamers (Lawtown Remix)
Featuring Termanology & Krumb Snatcha; Produced by Statik Seletkah
This is a remix of the “Big Dreamers” track that is featured on Statik Selektah’s previously released album entitled Spell My Name Right: The Album. This is the B-Side of the “Say Goodbye” single. While I wasn’t too keen of this track on that album and thought it was no more than average, I’m feeling this remix better than the original. With new verses from Reks and Termanology, and the additional of Krumb Snatcha on the track, it makes this song that much better this time around than the first listen. All of the emcees on this track do a nice job in talking about having dreams and doing everything you can to make those dreams become reality.
Produced by Demobeatz
This is Reks’ song in dedication to his song Isiah, which sees him talking about how his son and how he’s doing everything now to make sure his son lives a better life than he did. The beat produced by Demobeatz with the acoustic guitar and horns perfectly fits the tone and rhymes of Reks, and enables him to speak meaningfully and get his message across.
Pray For Me
Produced by Statik Seletkah
This song features production by Statik Seletkah, and while all of his beats on this album have been on point, I find this one to be average and a bit dragging. The beat gives this song a finale feel to it similar to Jay-Z’s “Hova Song (Outro)” that sees Reks just speaking his mind and clearly not caring what anybody has to say about it. He talks about his view on the current state of Hip-Hop and how things need to go back to the way they used to be with great music. The scratched vocal sample of Jay-Z’s verse from “Dead Presidents II” is a nice addition to the song.
While not many Hip-Hop listeners outside of the underground scene really know about Reks as an artist, I think this is the album to change all of that completely. Through the 20 tracks on this album, there is not a skip or filler track to be found throughout and is truly a complete listen all the way through. That is one sign of a great album when you don’t have to skip through tracks and can listen to the album from beginning to end. Not too many albums that I have listened to this year have that claim (including Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III), so that fact alone makes this one of the best albums that has been released this year. If listeners and critics in regards to the mainstream don’t proclaim this as the Best Album of 2008, then this has to be the Best Album of 2008 in terms of underground releases. This album proves the point that many of the releases in the underground scene of Hip-Hop exceed most of the commercial/mainstream releases both in terms of lyricism and production values. Sadly, that fact hasn’t been recognized and this album and many others like it praised by the underground but ridiculed by mainstream will go underrated. This is one of the few albums that I have been referred to give a listen to and end up really like it. Again, major props to King Jerm in referring me to this album because with out it I probably would have missed hearing this album or heard about years later. Go out and cop this album seriously, it’s a true example of the real music that is missed in Hip-Hop today that needs to be brought back to the light.
nappyPicks: “Stages”, “Telescopes”, “Cry Baby”, “Day 2”, “Premonition”, ‘Say Goodnight”, “Black Cream (The Negro Epidemic)”, “All In One (5 Mics)”…JUST COP THE ALBUM!!!