Quality control. It’s quite a bit more than an uncomplicated two-word phrase. It describes a manufacturer’s duty to the buying public. But in modern-era Hip Hop, dereliction of this crucial duty is all too commonplace.
Discerning Rap faithful should be happy to learn that integrity inspectors KRS-One [click to read] and Buckshot [click to read] have not shirked their assignment but rather have delivered a magnificent musical massacre in Survival Skills.
This historic Bronx-and-Brooklyn collaboration is a tutorial in grimy, meat-and-potatoes, beats-and-rhymes Hip Hop. It is a contemporary lesson in song structure and flows, highlighting the beauty of the marriage between drums, samples and conceptual lyrics.
And those rhymes emit from emcees with starkly different mic styles; a major reason why Survival Skills works. It’s the Blastmaster’s Bronx aggression standing side-by-side with Mr. Buckshot’s relaxed Crooklyn confidence. While they do get help from plenty of guest stars, these two complement each other instead of turning the album into a 14-round pissing contest.
Case in point is “Robot,” where Kris and Buck trade pulpit time and drop impassioned verses on what Hip Hop used to be and still has the potential to become. Instead of sounding like cranky curmudgeons pining for a return to Rap’s glory days, both emcees simply use Havoc’s [click to read] percussion to make their case against cookie-cutter Rap.
The LP’s most personal track, “Think Of All The Things,” feels like KRS, Buck and guest K’Naan [click to read] are reading passages from their daddy diaries. Taking their cue from DJ MentPlus’ floating sample and appropriate drums, this rhyme tribunal pens the Hip Hop update to Harry Chapin’s seminal “Cat’s In The Cradle” – with powerful results.
Lowlights are few and very
far between. “Murder 1” feels like a filler track with an uninspired
Bounty Killer hook. And while this might sound trivial, “One Shot”
certainly could’ve used a quick 16 from the always-invigorating Pharoahe
Monch, instead of relegating him to chorus duty.
Other rewind-worthy offerings include “Connection,” “Cleanup Crew” (Rock’s [click to read] hook is guaranteed to burrow its way into your subconscious) and “Amazin,” the latter featuring the inimitable Sean Price over Khrysis’ [click to read] triumphant horns and block-rocking snare. Some other guest speakers include Smif N Wessun [click to read], Pharoahe Monch, Mary J. Blige, Slug [click to read], Bounty Killer, Talib Kweli [click to read] and Immortal Technique [click to read].
The album is quite feature-heavy,
which unfortunately subtracts an intangible element from the effort’s
overall purpose. While there are no poor guest verses or hooks, supporting
roles on 11 out 14 tracks can at times make Survival Skills feel
more like a compilation than a tag-team match.
The pad-punchers on this project – Illmind [click to read], Havoc, Marco Polo, Khrysis, DJ MentPlus, Nottz [click to read], Black Milk [click to read], MoSS, Coptic, 9th Wonder [click to read] – deserve special recognition for providing the proper canvasses on which KRS and Buck could paint portraits with their singular, legendary flows.
While it may have been unintentional, KRS-One and Buckshot nonetheless have handed down a scathing indictment of today’s formulaic, ringtone Rap through an album that is anything but that.