Friday, November 20, 2009

Buy the Cunninglynguists Strange Journey Vol. One for All the Wrong Reasons

Nothing but Strangeness 

From the first track you know you’ve got something special.  The juxtaposition of a rapper with a solid Southern flow with a British rapper whose accented flow rival Eminem’s Midwestern accent in terms of aural intrigue combined with a laidback rowboat flow.  Whiile the singer of the hook could use a little variety in her intonation, it would’ve made this track truly special, the combination of the enjoyment the singers have for the track and the combination of a variety of flows brings a smile to my soul.  Grade: Substantial.  

Lynguinsts [Live in Stockholm] 

I’m angry at the Lynguists here.  Just recording ABC.  The production value of the recording of the vocals leaves a lot to be desired.  Lyrics are what propelled hip-hop into success and the lack of attention to this detail and to put it on an album is absurd.  That being said, the energy of the crowd loving the music helps the cause.  But what actually allows the to go over the top is the production.  This album in back to back examples has represented hard in production value as far as the beats go.  I’ve never even dreamed of hearing of a producer named Nenne Zetterberg, but someone should be writing this guy/girl checks, big ones.  The pied-piper Euro-lighthearted yet sophisticated beat leaves nothing to be desired.  It’s like a gourmet meal for a man used to eating southern food.  But you’re strangely amazed that you’re full.  Despite it’s shortfalls … Grade:  Significant.  

It begins sounding like an 80’s movie but the intriguing mix of sounds doesn’t fail to keep one’s attention.  It’s like a Rocky theme song that is tweaking and a little depressed.  It’s interesting, which is more than I can say about the lyrics.  They are rehashed and rudimentary subject matter at best.  Interestingly, I found that they could’ve added some female vocals to thicken the track but I must give them credit for not doing so.  Like a good chef, they let the ingredients speak for themselves.   Thanks Gordon Ramsey.  Grade:  Decent (barely, but Decent nonetheless).

This is a track that you want to be better.  After the previous three tracks and the production value of the beats you just want these guys to simply blow up lyrically so you can declare them an unfound jewel and blow them up to everybody you know, flossing on your own musical acumen, receiving credit and props grudgingly from all who know you as you bless them with the Cunninglynguists.  Unfortunately, again the beats simply outshine the lyrics.  Even more unfortunately the beat is in their league.  However, though two of the three verses are well written there is no impact.  It almost makes you angry.  Grade:  Passable (but Passable isn’t good enough).

Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)

A theme is emerging.  Great production, simply okay lyrics.  A track about getting high on pot brownies (Snoozefest anyone?). The production saves the track and the lyrics don’t ruin them.  A problem.  Lyrics must enhance the song and interpret the beat.  To quote a Clue track, “I ain’t crazy.  I just do what the beat say do.”  While their lyrics aren’t contrary to the beat they leave you wanting for more.  Like a girl whose great boyfriend regularly manages to underperform behind closed doors, eventually frustration sets in.  Grade:  Another Passable … aka, not good enough.

The producer of this track about a girl hypnotizing a man has let his guard down for a minute.  Not saying that the track itself is weak at all, it’s just not the intermediate level track that it normally is.  It is between a bunny hill and an intermediate level slope. And the Cunninglynguists both represent with solid performances.  These guys lace their verses with clever metaphors and solid delivery along with a in-tune rhymthmic flow.  However, the third verse simply is fragile, flimsy and frankly unnecessary.  Grade:  Okay player. 

Dance for Me 
An attempt at an empathetic song about a woman with a hard life, in this instance a stripper.  Beatwise – okay. Lyrically – uninteresting. Grade:  Okay plus.  

Mr. S.O.S. 

A sad and introspective track with a very interesting Shining-esque looped hook.  As an aside, the liner notes are sadly sparse, depriving the listener of the chance to understand where these tracks come from.  BUT, this track is strong.  The lyricst (who it is not obvious) is speaking from experience.  He talks about his heart being gelded and yet he is still attempting to find love.  The lyrics go astray once notably, throwing a diss in which is out of place, but the lyrics are delivered with real emotion and are well written due to their vast introspection and vulnerability.  Grade:  Stand Out.

White Guy Mind Tricks – I usually am annoyed by the non-creative interlude and normally fail to mention it, but this one is original and pretty damn funny.  Grade:  Plus. 

A sweet-potato and pecan pie track mixed with a Cadillac.  A track about Georgia’s anomalies, Big Boi and Dre would be jealous they didn’t get to bless this track.  Killer Mike and Khujo Goodie don’t devestate this track, they just flow in parallel lanes with it and through the strength of their verses relegate the first class aircraft to coach status.  Their versus are filled with personal details that one would only know if they lived in Georgia.  These are the kinds of songs with artists one has not heard a full body of work from, which pieque your interest.  Just a beautiful piece of artwork.  Yes, art.  Grade:  Substantial … maybe even Superior. 

Ku Klux Klan Kentucky in case you were wondering, a song about life in Kentucky.  The lyrics keep your attention for so long you almost don’t have time to listen to the beat, an eerie, edgy, drum heavy, deep but not depressing track.  Skinny Deville and Fishscales of the Nappy Roots make an appearance and they do well.  But the thunder is stolen by the third verse.  I love it when I’m listening to a track and I have to say ‘Who is this kid?’    The third verse clearly did that when Young Chu (I believe) just rides over the track effortlessly.  It’s like a National time trial, and he clears it easily and then has a sandwich.  The beat is nice.  The lyrics were decent. Young Chu (third verse) was ephemeral.  Grade:  Nice and a bit nasty.

Don’t Leave (When Winter Comes)
With an foggy, twilight, Hotel California-esque track the rappers, Slug from Atmosphere, and the Cunninglynguists simply bless the track.  A song about the hardships of being away from home, but in a genuine way, they all just strip down the bullshit and bring it down to the soul.  Manliness without bravado, soulful without being saccharine or insecure, this track is the foundation of what all respectable lyricists should be looking to accomplish.  Like a chef seeing a properly cooked risotto, it’s a staple that, if done properly is just impressive in itself.  It’s an intermediate step to greatness.  Grade:  Real.

Tonedeff – The Distance 
For the first time on this album the track disappoints, not because of any fundamental weakness but because of comparative strength of the others. It sounds like Castlevania with a Mack trucks rhythm.  Konami would be proud, however Tonedeff makes us proud with his interpretation of the track.  For the first time on this track, and rarely in general, an MC supports a track and not the other way around.  Tonedeff just listened to the beat and interpreted it, using the Jedi Mind Trick on the listener, forcing me to believe the track isn’t shitty, it’s just misunderstood.  Then Tonedeff proceeds to explain it to me.  You’ve gotta respect that thus … Grade: Respect.  

Broken Van (Thinking of You) 
This track intrigues from the jump with a Bob Dylan-esque feel.  The loop tugs at the heart strings.  And while the first two versus lack memorability, the last verse just is on the nose in a good way.  The level of focus of his verse on the topic matter is noteworthy.  Because of the track and the third verse … Grade: Nice.

Billy Joe’s Garage – Auto mechanic skit.  Funny.  Their skits are superior.  Grade:  Double plus.


This album has a lot of weak points.  The regular faulty lyricism is one of them, however the special guests pick up a lot of slack and on a few occasions the Cunninglynguists themselves are lyrically, not acclaimed, but on point, on one occasion so much so that it is noteworthy.  However, the production of the tracks is superior.  The consistency of well done production is just correct.  Combine this with the noteworthy appearances (not in name but in lyrical content), it leads to the conclusion that this is a album that is decent.  It is an album that is a guidepost and will lead you not only to other artists to buy their albums, i.e. Atmosphere, Young Chu, Looptroop Rockers, Hilltop Hoods, Substantial, etc., but it also will give a producer an idea of what can be made out of non-super expensive samples and sheer creativity.  For that reason, and not the lyrical acclaim of the namesakes, I’m placing this album at a Buy. 

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