This oft-ignored bit player from Death Row’s classic era really deserves more than this: a “comeback” album whose opening skit announces him as an oldies act (“Thizzle??” he asks, clearly outraged). But this is playful, busy, spleen-deep, and RBX’s froggy mushmouth flow works miracles. He’s an O.G. with a pedigree and something to prove. “Streetz” samples the Exorcist theme to excellent effect, and “Echoes of My Mind” evokes (maybe samples?) the Moments in its cloudbreak beauty. “Never Again” spits some very righteous anti-Bush rhetoric alongside a pounding one-note piano, while “Stop That” tumbles forward on a renaissance riff that sounds kinda like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”. It’s almost as if fortysomething RBX is on the precipice of becoming a rhymesaying blues moaner—older and smarter than you, with more pain and trickier rhymes to put across. And the blues comparison makes me wonder: where does hip-hop lift up its aging talents, and recharge its ancient wisdom? Put it another way: when does hip-hop’s profitable business model make way for great art? Well, here’s one place.
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// Notes from the Road
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