Now at nearly the exact halfway point of 2011, it’s clear that Queens Hip Hop is back stronger than ever. With major buzz surrounding the recently freed Prodigy and his resulting book and new music, as well as Nas showing that he still has it on his most recent single “Nasty,” complete with a proper Funkmaster Flex bomb dropping, one had to wonder what the borough of Queens was going to come up with next. Hoping to add to the high caliber music coming from his neighborhood lately is Blaq Poet, with Blaq Poet Society, co-produced by Stu Bangas and Vanderslice.
To put in perspective what Blaq Poet Society is, it’s almost easier to say what it is not. It isn’t friendly. It isn’t welcoming. It’s not easy listening. It’s not something that will ever be heard on the radio. Nor does it give the impression that it wanted to ever be any of those things. In a nutshell, it’s menacing “I’m better, meaner, and more dangerous than you” raps over slap-you-in-the-face beats. Features are plentiful yet not overshadowing of the main act, and include underground notables Vinnie Paz, Reef the Lost Cauze, Apathy, Celph Titled, and more. Also worthy of noting is the presence of fellow product of Queensbridge Capone on the standout “Life of a Hustler,” produced by Vanderslice. As Blaq Poet goes in about the struggles in the hood and the problems that drive hustlers to do what they do, Capone proves his fluency as a salesman as he rhymes, “I’m a hustler, I could sell the World Trade, I could sell a bald head nigga a low fade.” The track seems slightly more heartfelt than others on Blaq Poet Society, and though still maintaining a darkness, Vanderslice’s beat doesn’t sound like the soundtrack to a listener going out and shanking somebody. Not to say that’s a bad (albeit morally unacceptable) feeling to get from music, but with every song on the album fitting that description, a break from it is welcome.
Blaq Poet’s lyrics and delivery are solid and the production from both Vanderslice and the Guns-N-Butter member Stu Bangas are equally as strong, but the biggest downside to Blaq Poet Society is probably monotony. More varying sounds and lyrical style could have been employed to show not only Blaq Poet’s versatility, but that of Stu Bangas and Vanderslice as well. Also interesting was the inclusion of “Daytime Shootouts” featuring Jaysaun and Chief Kamachi, and then the remix to that track, “Nighttime Shootouts” featuring Apathy and Celph Titled. In the same manner that Massachusetts emcee M-Dot did on Run MPC with the track “Be Easy,” this opens the door to a harshly critical debate of “who did it better?” There’s nothing like a little healthy competition, though.
It won’t make any “album of the year” lists, but Blaq Poet Society is worth at least one listen. For those that thrive off grimy lyrics, emcee braggadocio, and production worthy of being the soundtrack to a horror flick, Blaq Poet’s latest will be a welcome addition to their music libraries. For anyone else, one listen will probably be enough.