Thurz - L.A. Riot

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Thurz skyrockets from the pack of so-called "blog rappers" and delivers an informed album enforced by concept, musicality and angst.

Emcee Thurz was less than 10 years old when the injustice of the Rodney King verdict prompted the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. However, the co-founder of U-N-I had a front row seat to the affair, growing up in the Inglewood section of the city, a community of residents largely feeling deceived by the LAPD's promises to "protect and serve." On his solo debut, L.A. Riot, Thurz skyrockets from the pack of so-called "blog rappers" and delivers an informed album enforced by concept, musicality and angst.

L.A. Riot bonds closely with 20-year-old history, but it is not a throwback album. Clearly nodding to West Coast Hip Hop classics by the likes of N.W.A. and Ice-T - dominant urban voices at the time of the King Beating, Thurz' track "Fuck The Police" is neither a cover nor an update. Instead, Thurz takes Cube and company's sentiments and proves that little has changed (if we consider Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo or Ousame Zongo's were all innocent men murdered by police). Backed by Tom Morello-esque hard and hazy guitars, the song is equal parts energy than substance, and history repeats. That theme carries through to "The Killers," a more mellow track, where Thurz talks about the minefield of growing up in the ghetto. "If the police don't kill us, it's pussy and religion," he rhymes on the song, where mere existence feels like Russian roulette in audio. Guest singer Jazzy's Pop delivery makes the record bigger, more tangible, and Thurz achieves a deft balance of very specific geographic issues presented in a universal way. The jewel of L.A. Riot is its highest profile moment, "Riot" featuring The Roots' Black Thought. Thought delivers his Game Theory-era accounts of street apocalypse, matched by an extra gully Thurz to capture the angst of a city on fire. This is Ted Koppel doing man-on-the-street interviews on Crenshaw. Once again, Thurz takes a South Central, Los Angeles experience and connects it for all.

The album is shared production from the likes of DJ Khalil, Ro Blvd. and Aaron Harris. Interestingly enough, it sounds seamlessly cohesive. The employment of both samples and live instrumentation makes this experience feel big and orchestral. Thurz' inspiration from Kanye West is apparent with some of the Electro ("Dope"), although the closeness to the street angst feels very early 1990s Dr. Dre, where a funky live guitar loop meshes beautifully with a Mayfield cut ("Nigga"). Like another South Central emcee ascending from MP3 singles to stellar albums, Kendrick Lamar, Thurz is able to use his subjects and deliveries to hone an album that sonically pulls from a wider spectrum than most artists are capable of.

In the last decade, the West Coast Hip Hop community has pointed fingers to elders for not supporting the up-and-comers. Meanwhile, a counter-movement accused today's new class of California emcees for not acknowledging the tremendous boundaries broken by the trailblazers of yesterday. L.A. Riot mediates this ongoing debate beautifully. Thurz connects the messages of Cube, Ice-T, Rage Against The Machine and others with today's youth and their issues. Better than just saying their names, the album pulls news reports, facts and first-person accounts to make it more than just an acknowledgement. This is one of the most direct and informed accounts from a Los Angelino emcee of the last decade.


  • DJ Booth

    Its rare that one song can sum up an entire album, but L.A. Riot is a rare album, and Rodney King is a rare song. More than just storytelling rap, this is cinema. A less confident, and less truthful, emcee than Thurz would have opened his tale of the night that sparked a thousand fires more dramatically, but thats not how history actually unfolded. Instead, history unfolded with an upset Pacers victory over the Lakers, a late night joy ride, a drunken decision to run and a defiance that quickly gave way to abject brutality. King reminds us that the people actually involved in the Rodney King beating were really role players, men and women who couldn't have possibly imagined the anger and devastation they would unleash. But what happened that night on the side of the 210 highway, and equally importantly what happened in a drab L.A. County courtroom afterwards, symbolized something greater. It symbolized desperation and fear and powerlessness and oppression, a symbol powerful enough to leave one of Americas largest cities lying in smouldering ruins days later. And yes, I got all of that from a song. Todays hip-hop is afraid to truly make a statement. Any hint of seriousness is quickly balanced by a Patron infused club banger, about which the rapper always explains away with, I wanted there to be something for everyone on this album. Thurz has a different idea. L.A. Riot is an album made by a man on a mission, a mission he refuses to deviate from, not even for some of that radio love. I mean, the opening song on the album is called Molotov Cocktail, a riding banger that harkens back to Thurz L.A. rap forefather Ice Cube (thatd be Amerikkkas Most Wanted Cube, not Are We There Yet? Cube). Actually, if I was to compare L.A. Riot to any other artist itd be another Los Angeles act Rage Against the Machine. Like Rage channelled the kinetic energy of hard rock through hip-hop, Thurz takes a banging live percussion line on Molotov and unleashes rhymes that are more frontman than rapper. Its the exact same story on F**k the Police, which once again grabs a headbanging beat to revive the energy and spirit of NWAs seminal track (a track that proved to be prophetic once the riots started). As long as I'm making connections between Thurz and artists who were providing the soundtrack to 92 I've also got to bring up Cypress Hill, whose hand on the pump spirit is invoked in the more syntheses driven Riot, an echoing track that also brings in Black Thought of The Roots, another group that isn't afraid to make music that means something. Yes, L.A. Riot is music for the revolution - hey, its not called L.A. Lets All Cuddle but the revolution doesn't take place entirely in the streets. The revolution also takes place in homes, schools and within ourselves, a reality that Thurz reflects by slowing thing down on tracks like The Killers. Thanks in large part to a perfectly delivered soul hook from Jazzy, Killers is the calm after the storm, the morning after the riot when the fires have been extinguished but the sky is still filled with smoke. It may be slower paced but its still intense, which is where Hells Angels comes in. Easily the albums most mellow track, Angel is also the albums most hopeful offering, even If that hope is tempered by an acknowledgement of the struggle. Including the angry highs of Riot and the uplifting lows of Angels and the autobiographical Los Angeles on the same album is no easy task, but Thurz pulls it off nicely. For many, particularly the generation born after 1992, the L.A. Riots have simply become another forgotten historical landmark, a chapter (or more likely a paragraph) in a history book that has no bearing on their life. Similarly, names like Public Enemy and N.W.A., groups that embodied the no holds barred approach of early 90s hip-hop, must feel like golden oldies to the digital generation. But on L.A. Riot Thurz resurrects the spirit of both, reminding us that were not nearly as far from another riot as wed like to believe, and that hip-hop still has the power to unite and inspire. So I riot for a better future for my baby daughter. What do you riot for?

  • welcome to: Hip Hop

    Those People Who Listen To YMCMB MMG Can Do All They Want But I'm Just Saying Add This To The Music To Listen To Especially The Black People, It's Just If You Listen To The Most Of The Shit That's On The Radio Right Now You're Going To Get Dumbed The Fuck Down... Listen To Music Like This To Counterbalance That.

  • bacon

    Thurz deserves the world, stars and moon for this classic album

  • Tamir Smith

    Rodney King & Hells Angel are both timeless west coast classics

  • Anonymous


  • theCool

    This is fantastic. The most refreshing shit I've heard in so damn long. This just blows me away. I've been bumping this in my ride nonstop, the entire album, no flaws, no gimmicks, no bullshit. Hip Hop. Unreal.

  • Watchtower Slanger

    I'm gonna pass this album out like watchtowers. Bangin

  • Ian Morgan

    Wow, i'm 7 tracks through this on Spotify right now and i've starred every song so far. Awesome to see hip-hop appears to be slowly lashing back against the dilution of what this genre is really about. 5 stars (so far...)

  • Gamblarjones

    I agree with everything you wrote and can't believe it only deserved four stars. Not a weak moment on this album. I look forward to any and everything this kid puts out in the future. Best album of the summer

  • cmon son

    THIS THE ALBUM FROM THE WEST THAT NEEDS TO BE HYPED UP NOT THAT OTHER ALBUM DROPPING AUGUST 23 they claim real hiphop but this shit only got 17 votes that proves its about who popular and got a gimmick like coke dealer or gang banger

  • Anonymous

    this the shit game cant do

  • chiefjobs

    I didn't skip one song. Album is very well thought out with quality music and substance. Damn!

  • Rami Matan Even-Esh

    my man thurz is a westcoast current , he is doing it right now. and you can approach him. pow. great reason why i moved to the west coast. being around talent from all different areas- kosha dillz!

  • Marek

    Thurz done great job with this album.

  • futureofmusic

    LA has produced 2 of my favorite albums this year: LA Riot and Section 80

  • bigtybeatdowns

    L.A. Is winning this album is amazing! Wow this has been an amazing year for hip hop. Who says it's dead?

  • chris

    great ass album and pure amazing.

  • Ayo Oak

    This was a fantastic solo debut for Thurzday. I've been a fan of U-N-I since 08 and I'm glad to see him progressing as an artist like this.

  • Nuno Andrade

    dope..... la stand up.....

  • Anonymous

    buy the album on amazon its only 8.99

  • subjectbatter

    Excellent review. Best album of the year

  • guy lombardo

    Def a Top 5 for me. Great review.

  • audiophile

    one of the top 3 albums of the year imo

  • Arman Mahmoudi

    welll written piece.... and i completely agree

  • TheTruthIsInMyWords


  • TheTruthIsInMyWords


  • TheTruthIsInMyWords

    dude is as wack as rakin or krs. Lil Wayne and gucci mane are the greatest of all time. Biggie, L, Cube etc. can't even rap

  • Larry Lane Jr

    Listening to this album now never heard of Thurz but this album is good.

  • Lord Finesse

    Amazing album.