[7 September 2011]
PopMatters Events Editor
Call them the anti-Odd Future. Nine 11 Thesaurus was created under the umbrella of Representing NYC, a network of artists and educators in Brooklyn, NY, that is combining youth, hip-hop culture, and socially aware messages with hopes of impacting a wider social and cultural audience. The results of their debut effort, Ground Zero Generals, are varied and cluttered, both in message and in presentation. Without question, the members of Nine 11 Thesaurus have a lot to say. Unfortunately, their attempts to cram it all into a 45-minute debut serves only to confuse their greater message.
It’s hard to pull out one overriding theme on Ground Zero Generals, as the topic seems to change in the blink of an eye, covering explanations of a violent culture, unfortunate and unhelpful stereotypes, and painful childhoods, sometimes all within a matter of minutes. At times, the young men of Nine 11 Thesaurus are able to harness a particular idea long enough to create a powerful gem such as “Metal in My Body”. Other tracks are for more polluted and unfocused. From a strictly artistic standpoint, Ground Zero Generals leaves much to be desired. Tracks like “Rookie of the Year” and “Stressin’” find the rappers delivering respectable rhymes over interesting, albeit sometimes cluttered, beats, but others such as “16 Bars” and “Police Sirens” sound like they were made by goofy kids playing around on a laptop after school.
The youth and inexperience of Nine 11 Thesaurus shines a bit too brightly on this debut, whether it be found in the form of some painfully delivered lines or the uncomfortable hype chants of “nine 11” found throughout the album. Fortunately, within some of the tracks on Ground Zero Generals there lays great promise, perhaps most notably in the sometimes shockingly passionate pleas for social awareness and cultural redemption. Perhaps with a little time and experience, the projects coming down the Representing NYC pipeline will be better equipped to compete with some of their lyrically loaded peers.