It’s rare that one song can sum up an entire album, but L.A. Riot is a rare album, and Rodney King is a rare song. More than just storytelling rap, this is cinema. A less confident, and less truthful, emcee than Thurz would have opened his tale of the night that sparked a thousand fires more dramatically, but that’s not how history actually unfolded. Instead, history unfolded with an upset Pacers victory over the Lakers, a late night joy ride, a drunken decision to run and a defiance that quickly gave way to abject brutality. … ...Read the full album review
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DJBooth Album Review
It’s rare that one song can sum up an entire album, but L.A. Riot is a rare album, and Rodney King is a rare song. More than just storytelling rap, this is cinema. A less confident, and less truthful, emcee than Thurz would have opened his tale of the night that sparked a thousand fires more dramatically, but that’s not how history actually unfolded. Instead, history unfolded with an upset Pacers victory over the Lakers, a late night joy ride, a drunken decision to run and a defiance that quickly gave way to abject brutality. King reminds us that the people actually involved in the Rodney King beating were really role players, men and women who couldn’t have possibly imagined the anger and devastation they would unleash. But what happened that night on the side of the 210 highway, and equally importantly what happened in a drab L.A. County courtroom afterwards, symbolized something greater. It symbolized desperation and fear and powerlessness and oppression, a symbol powerful enough to leave one of America’s largest cities lying in smoldering ruins days later. And yes, I got all of that from a song.
Today’s hip-hop is afraid to truly make a statement. Any hint of seriousness is quickly balanced by a Patron infused club banger, about which the rapper always explains away with, “I wanted there to be something for everyone on this album.” Thurz has a different idea. L.A. Riot is an album made by a man on a mission, a mission he refuses to deviate from, not even for some of that radio love.
I mean, the opening song on the album is called Molotov Cocktail, a riding banger that harkens back to Thurz’ L.A. rap forefather Ice Cube (that’d be Amerikkka’s Most Wanted Cube, not Are We There Yet? Cube). Actually, if I was to compare L.A. Riot to any other artist it’d be another Los Angeles act – Rage Against the Machine. Like Rage channeled the kinetic energy of hard rock through hip-hop, Thurz takes a banging live percussion line on Molotov and unleashes rhymes that are more frontman than rapper. It’s the exact same story on F**k the Police, which once again grabs a headbanging beat to revive the energy and spirit of NWA’s seminal track (a track that proved to be prophetic once the riots started). As long as I’m making connections between Thurz and artists who were providing the soundtrack to ’92 I’ve also got to bring up Cypress Hill, whose “hand on the pump” spirit is invoked in the more synth driven Riot, an echoing track that also brings in Black Thought of The Roots, another group that isn’t afraid to make music that means something.
Yes, L.A. Riot is music for the revolution - hey, it’s not called L.A. Let’s All Cuddle – but the revolution doesn’t take place entirely in the streets. The revolution also takes place in homes, schools and within ourselves, a reality that Thurz reflects by slowing thing down on tracks like The Killers. Thanks in large part to a perfectly delivered soul hook from Jazzy, Killers is the calm after the storm, the morning after the riot when the fires have been extinguished but the sky is still filled with smoke. It may be slower paced but it’s still intense, which is where Hells Angels comes in. Easily the album’s most mellow track, Angel is also the album’s most hopeful offering, even If that hope is tempered by an acknowledgment of the struggle. Including the angry highs of Riot and the uplifting lows of Angels and the autobiographical Los Angeles on the same album is no easy task, but Thurz pulls it off nicely.
For many, particularly the generation born after 1992, the L.A. Riots have simply become another forgotten historical landmark, a chapter (or more likely a paragraph) in a history book that has no bearing on their life. Similarly, names like Public Enemy and N.W.A., groups that embodied the no holds barred approach of early ‘90s hip-hop, must feel like golden oldies to the digital generation. But on L.A. Riot Thurz resurrects the spirit of both, reminding us that we’re not nearly as far from another riot as we’d like to believe, and that hip-hop still has the power to unite and inspire. So I riot for a better future for my baby daughter. What do you riot for?
Listen to More: Thurz Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Rodney King" (2011)
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