If I’m part of a production crew putting out an album that I hope showcases my skills, I might be hesitant to throw on the best MCs around, because I’d want to shine, especially if my debut wasn’t the success I had hoped for. Da Beatminerz, who I’m thinking have more respect than I do, have no such worries—they bring the best vocalists they can get and provide the beats to keep up. For you to catch them, though, you’re going to need a time machine thrown in reverse.
The album’s second track, “Let’s Go”, makes it clear that this album’s going back to an old school sound. Da Beatminerz (primarily Evil Dee and Mr. Walt) put on a bass-heavy, steady thump beat and let their first classic guest run loose. KRS-One brings exactly what you’d expect, both good (that strong flow and even stronger attitude) and bad (he’s dropping exactly the lines you’d expect, like, “The age of the ignorant rapper is done”). The producers and the MC fit together so well that if you didn’t know any better, you might expect a full-length collaboration to follow.
The group drops KRS after this track, but they segue smoothly into “It’s Not Enough”, which features Wordsworth and Last Emperor, two contemporary MCs who nod to the past (Wordsworth counts KRS among his biggest influences and has performed with A Tribe Called Quest). The transition into this track is an easy one, and the MCs hold up their part of the song. By now, Da Beaterminerz are beginning to prove that they can make music to fit a rapper.
But they don’t stop there. They provide the beats for a couple of slower R&B tracks, too. “Woman/Lady” provides a nice, but somewhat forgettable change of pace. “That’s Why” showcases David Banks singing about his desire to see his son, even if the singer’s relationship with the son’s mom and other external conditions aren’t so pleasant. Banks runs to the border of treacle (and might nudge over it), but he delivers a solid vocal that matches up well with Da Beatminerz acoustic-guitar loop.
“Pull Your Card” shows the crew going in another direction. The opening sample and narration could have come from Madvillainy. The yet-to-break Mystic adds steady rhymes for the verses and a little sing-song-y chorus. It’s so smooth you might not notice the vitriol in her attack on suburban white boys trying to look thug: “You a white boy ... bumpin’ Tupac / Acting like you’re hard / Stop”. Her indictments are the album’s most cutting and arguably the most relevant. The discussion about white kids and hip-hop is far from over, as Bakari Kitwana can attest.
Jean Grae “won’t mutter it unless it’s simply marvelous” and on “U.. Me.. All Ov Us!” she reminds us why she’s one of the more intriguing MCs around right now. Unfortunately, Da Beatminerz stumble a bit on the beat, using one main loop that’s not interesting enough to keep from slowly dropping to the ground with its repetitiveness. The group tries to turn a potential minor hook into the centerpiece for a song and it doesn’t quite hold up.
Da Beatminerz make beats that let their vocalist play to their strengths, but at the same time they’ve assembled Fully Loaded W/ Statik as a cohesive album and not as a production compilation or mixtape. The album’s not overwhelming, but it is strong, and a good reminder of why Da Beatminerz have been an influential (if not famous) production group for some time. Probably neither the beats nor the rhymes are going to get them on the charts or TRL, but this disc should getting their name circulating. At least underground.
// Notes from the Road
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