The police just killed one of your friends for essentially nothing more than playing his boombox at full blast. What should you do? Organize a protest rally outside city hall, or grab the nearest trashcan and start breaking glass? If you don’t know what I’m referencing you need to watch Do The Right Thing, the classic Spike Lee movie that explores racial tension in New York City. Almost twenty years after America first watched Rosie Perez bust some ill dance moves on a Brooklyn sidewalk, Kardinal Offishall and Clinton Sparks have released their head turning …
DJBooth Album Review
If you don’t know what I’m referencing you need to watch Do The Right Thing, the classic Spike Lee movie that explores racial tension in New York City. Almost twenty years after America first watched Rosie Perez bust some ill dance moves on a Brooklyn sidewalk, Kardinal Offishall and Clinton Sparks have released their head turning mixtape of the same name. The movie and the mixtape are a tight fit: playing the part of Mookie is Offishall, a viciously flowing Canadian MC poised to break out after singing to Akon’s Konvict label, and playing his white friend Vito is Sparks, the DJ/producer and mixtape king. The parallel works on a conceptual tip as well. Hip-hop’s been hijacked by marketing campaigns and focus groups, so what should true- school heads do? Organize protests or bum rush corporate labels and start bustin' up their offices? What is the right thing? While Common’s spreading love through your speakers Offishall got a mic in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.
Do The Right Thing is out to push the future while remembering the past, so the mixtape fittingly starts with Offishall spitting over Cypress Hill’s seminal track How I Could Just Kill A Man. Offishall’s flow lacks the original’s feel of blunted danger, but beginning the mixtape by swearing you could kill a man, if not literally than certainly on the mic, announces his intentions as clearly as possible. Much better is the remix of East Flatbush’s Project’s sick beat off their track Tried By 12. Sparks flips the other side of the equation by calling the track Carried By 6 (think it over) and the beat’s Asian-style strings and raw percussion demands a dope flow. Up and comer Daytona shows up to drop an off-kilter verse, look out for the man, and Offishall is in full command of the mic. His father is from Jamaica and when his flow is at full force he mixes in reggae-accented shouts that give his flow Busta Rhymes-esque energy. Ultimately Offishall’s not trying to sound like anyone but himself, a sadly rare thing in an industry full of copy machine rappers.
Sparks also provides some original material for Do The Right Thing. 2 Deep has a head-nodding beat that puts marching horns over loose and loud percussion that would overwhelm a lot of MCs but Offishall’s got the strength to stay on top of the beat. Most importantly he breaks down the influence of mass appeal in hip-hop, saying, “that’s why the mixtape sound a little different from the album/that’s where they get they real style from.” We’ll have to remember that line when his solo album drops this fall. Speaking of which…
Mixtapes have become vehicles for upcoming MCs to get noticed and more established artists to build hype for their albums. Do The Right Thing ends with the first track off Offishall’s upcoming Not For Sale, Graveyard Shift. Graveyard Shift has a stripped down feel with percussion that sounds like a kids banging on storefronts with sticks and a booming bass line. If this track is any indication, Offishall hasn’t changed his style at all for the album. The track’s real claim to fame is Akon rapping a verse. Well, I wouldn’t call it rap, more like talk that happens to rhyme. Akon should definitely stick to what he does best (singing and dry-humping underage girls) but it will be fascinating to see if Akon’s golden touch can bring Offishall some radio-play.
In the end Do The Right Thing is only a mixtape; the productions good but not highly polished, some tracks are pretty short, and Sparks says his tagline, “Get familiar!” about 217 times. Still, if it gets the relatively unknown Offishall some long-deserving attention than it’s a success. So have Netflix send you Do The Right Thing, track down a copy of the mixtape, and rediscover the still beating heart of hip-hop.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 07/23/07
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First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Graveyard Shift ft. Akon" (2007)
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