In the early ‘90s the west coast was king. And by the west coast, I mean L.A. These kings, men like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac, cruised SoCal’s wide and palm tree-lined streets like emperors, lowriders were their throne and hip-hop nation’s residents (with some notable exceptions) were their loyal subjects. Then their kingdom began to crumble, like all empires eventually do, until by the turn of the new millennium L.A. became overshadowed by rap’s new epicenters like Chicago and Atlanta. So why did the west coast lose its crown? Simple. While the Snoop …
DJBooth Album Review
In just the last couple of years all that began to change. A new generation of artists began making noise on the national scene with an eye towards restoring their coast to it’ rightful place, artists like Nipsey Hussle, Fashawn, El Prez, Shawn Crystopher, and now, U-N-I. Comprised of emcees Y-O and Thurzday, U-N-I, whose name is taken from the Roots track UNIverse at War, are making their strongest bid for national shine yet with the release of their new album A Love Supreme 2.0. Continuing the recent trend of one artist – one producer albums, U-N-I have teamed up with fellow up-and-coming beatsmith RO Blvd to create an album that’s simultaneously futuristic and rooted in hip-hop’s past.
What does that mean? It means Land of the Kings. A track whose title also serves as the group’s semi-official motto, Land of the Kings finds Y-O and Thurzday trading off progressively aggressive rhymes over a pounding beat that gives way to U-N-I’s sometimes deeply poetic lines: “Secret society, a crack in the sky sings, sleep is eyeing me, I am a king!” What does that mean? I’m not sure, but it sounds dope, and sometimes that’s more than enough. (Quick pause to give props to the Land of the Kings Remix, which is an actual remix, not just the same song with an extra verse. Ok, resume review.) While Land of the Kings is about the duo’s larger lives, the prevailing theme of Love Supreme is undoubtedly girls; incredibly, Pu**y may just be the album’s sole track not centered around getting pu**y. Lately, the latest single, is “Strictly for vaginas”, the bouncing Calendar Girls is an essential organizing tool for any true mack, and the laid back Lauren London is about, well, you can guess. Over the course of the album all these tracks can begin to blend together, but if you like fresh hip-hop, and women, there’s no way you won’t like Love Supreme.
It has to be said that if you’re digging A Love Supreme 2.0, you’re really digging producer RO Blvd. Rhymes and beats, or at least good ones, serve to enhance each other, so divvying up credit can be difficult. With that said, after a couple listens I was left wondering if I was digging a U-N-I album featuring RO Blvd, or vice-verse. For example, while Y-O and Thurzady’s rhymes on The Launch 2.0 are decent, RO crafts an astoundingly dope beat that manages to be both densely layered and deceptively simplistic by starting with lush synth lines and slowly adding percussive elements, including the classic west coast rattle, until the track builds into an absolutely hypnotizing affair. It’s a similar story on Stylin, a cut that finds RO traveling into quasi-Neptunes territory with sharp drums overlaid by shortly melodic melodies, and on the propulsively driven Windows, a supremely head-nodding joint that underwrites melodic string melodies with stuttering snares and a crunching bass line. I’m not saying that anyone would sound dope over beats like this, but they’re certainly helping U-N-I’s cause.
That doesn’t mean U-N-I can’t pack a lyrical punch, and expand their reach beyond booties when prompted. Fittingly, My Life is the project’s most autobiographical track, the closest we get to knowing Y-O and Thurzday on a personal level, Black Sky is a stoner-philosophy anthem and on a purely lyrical level Voltron might just the album’s standout cut. So, ultimately, is A Love Supreme 2.0 powerful enough to reassert the west’s dominance? No. Like the aforementioned Voltron, in combination with the region’s other rising talents it should serve as a loud wake-up call to anyone currently sleeping on Cali. Beware the west coast come up.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 03/18/10
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