Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation by Zion I & The Grouch
Only on an album between left coast veterans Zion I and The Grouch would you find two emcees kickin’ rhymes about their new dietary practices. Simplistic yet unique in style, Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation invokes a general ambience of positivity that you’ll rarely find these days. Granted, Zumbi and Grouch’s lyricism rarely exhibits a “wow” factor that takes place when Slaughterhouse is in the headphones. But for every less than stellar performance (“Drop It On The 1,” “Rockit Man”), they hit you with a record that carries a passionate message, such as “Victorious People” or “Be A Father To Your Child.” On the latter record, Amplive’s production supplies infectious grooves to their reasonable words of wisdom about responsible parenthood. The two rappers aren’t afraid to take an aggressive approach either, even if it does initially sound a bit patronizing (“Frankenstein”). This latest effort may not rank among their earlier acclaimed solo albums, nor as their best collaborative project (they joined forces to release Heroes In The City Of Dope in 2006). However, Heroes In The Healing Of The Nation is proof that in a world where social, financial and natural devastation linger on our minds, there’s still someone out there who sees the glass half-full.
Closed Sessions: ATX by Various Artists
At this point it should come as no surprise to hear about rappers completing a recording session one day and then releasing their finished product the very next. We live in a digital age where studios are mobile, distribution of the music is limitless, and collaborations are one phone call away. And yet, this is exactly what’s so appealing about Closed Sessions: ATX. Created over the course of four days last March in Austin, Texas, ATX finds an assorted collection of emcees crossing paths for the sake of creating quality music, and the end results rarely disappoint. From relatively new established acts like Fashawn, El Prez and CurT@!N$ to respected wordsmiths Rhymefest and Rakaa Iriscience, the 10-track project flows as if its participants had planned this out for months. Peep the down south arrangement “Pimp Hand Goliath” from Kidz In The Hall’s producer half Double O, where his bruising drums and layered synths sound perfectly tailored for Cory Mo’s drawled delivery. Another highlight of ATX is “Heads of The Heads,” a space-age production from Chi-town veteran Tony Baines that has fellow Midwesterners GLC and Freddie Gibbs floating high on Cloud 9. Rarely devoid of braggadocios bangers (“Aleon and Rhymefest,” “This Is the Life”) or lyrical exercises (“Theme Music,” “Raise The Curtain”), The Closed Sessions: ATX does what other compilations fail to do: provide us with an all-star cast of our favorite emcees while still keeping execution and likewise integrity in mind (looking at you DJ Khaled).
True Theory by Luck-One
Despite the mistakes we make in life, redemption will always find those who are willing to change their actions for the better. Portland-based rapper Luck-One is living proof of this concept, when at 17-years-old the aspiring emcee found himself behind bars for second-degree robbery. Serving Oregon state’s mandatory minimum for the offense, Luck-One (born Hanif Collins) came out of prison determined to make music his new gateway of expression rather than continue on a nefarious route that once seemed enticing as a teenager. This maturity and drive is heavily displayed on his debut album True Theory, where in the same breath Luck-One can educate listeners on serious cultural commentary (“Palestine,” “Monotheism”) and still treat them to inspirational tunes that capture a young man discovering his true purpose in life (“I Believe,” “The Real Me”). Beats provided by local products Dekk, Chi Duly and Trox match his energetic delivery throughout, as Luck-One showcases a lyrical demeanor guaranteed to raise the interest level for emerging acts that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Mellowing out the mood, “Sounds Of My City” and “Prototype” are commendable joints to vibe to, with the former record worthy for the title of PDX’s unofficial anthem. True Theory leaves little indication that failure is in the horizon for Luck-One, a theory that hopefully will continue throughout his blossoming music career.