Often imitated, never duplicated. Every so often a force comes along that is so original, so...
DJBooth Album Review
So when a group of hardcore rappers from Staten Island spit frenetic and grimy rhymes, the Wu comparisons are inevitable. Oh, and they’re backed by Raekwon the Chef, who has been developing the Ice Water recipe for years and has finally cooked up Raekwon Presents Ice Water – Polluted Water. Although Ice Water (comprised of Polite, Stomach, P.C. and D.C.) is heavily influenced by their legendary mentor, they have no illusions of duplication. They’re simply trying to learn from Raekwon’s teachings and find their own place in the game. Think Cool Ranch Doritos, not as good as the original but they more than hold their own.
The first words on Polluted Water is a woman crooning, “beast music.” I couldn’t agree more. The Scram Jones produced track Animal leads off with an absolutely menacing beat that serves as an explosive introduction to Ice Water’s stabbing rhyme style. This is purely unadulterated hardcore rap that never stoops to exaggeration, there’s even the occasional pop-culture reference (you can never go wrong with Hulk Hogan). Shockingly, there’s not a gun shot to be heard on the entire track, they must have missed the memo that five blasts per verse is now mandatory. By comparison the track Click-Clack is so hard it makes Animal sound like 2 Legit 2 Quit. Click-Clack lays grumbling rock guitars over some church choir vocals that sleeps halfway between heaven and hell. Ice Water slows down their flow until they’re nearly talking, pulling things back to a whisper on the chorus. Calmly telling someone you’re going to hide their body in the ceiling is infinitely more intimidating than screaming empty threats and Ice Water knows it.
It’s not all knuckle fights and money stackin' for Ice Water, they find time to reminisce on their origins with the self-explanatory Hip-Hop Tribute. Hip-hop has raised more than two generations of kids now, much to the chagrin of Bill O’Reilly, and Ice Water breaks down how Wu-Tang and Marly Marl taught them “how to live” over a soulful clapping beat. Ice Water is connected to hip-hop’s foundation in more than words, they bring in the unsurpassably energetic Busta Rhymes for Do It Big. The beat bursts with speaker-rumbling bass and electronic synths readymade for patiently hustling flows with touches of revolutionary politics. With so many rappers on each track the guest features never steal the spotlight, a good thing because Rick Ross sounds determined to lay down one of his best verses since Hustlin’ on the riding track I’m A Boss. How could you not have Ricky Ross on I’m A Boss? Just writing that felt tight. Of course Raekwon made some calls, but he has enough confidence not to pollute Ice Water with a flood of guest verses. There’s a reason they call the man "The Chef."
Speaking of which; Raekwon has said that Ice Water, “had to learn the importance of dealing with certain songs that they needed for their record. Basically, they had to learn about the business.” The “certain songs” he’s referring to? He means club bangers, which Ice Water includes in a four-song chunk crammed into the end of the album. I know “the business” demands radio friendly singles, and I can’t argue with that, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed. All Night, featuring the eternally smooth Jagged Edge, is a full-out slow jam that Ice Water manages to make work, though only barely. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Move, a club joint built around some winding Indian singing that was played out five years ago. It’s hard to imagine a track like this on 36 Chambers, but that’s alright. If Wu-Tang is Jordan, than Ice Water is Gilbert Arenas; fully capable of lighting it up but not the foundation of a dynasty. Some records will just never be broken…without steroids.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 30, 2007
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