In Frank Miller’s Sin City, the character Marv is described in the following passage: “[M]ost people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him.” The same can be said of Bumpy Knuckles – or Freddie Foxxx, if you prefer. On his latest offering, KoleXXXion, Bump unabashedly goes to war, with ferocious rhymes serving as his weapon of choice.
“My Thoughts” is an ominous introduction that’ll get the listener screw-faced within seconds, as a calm Freddie Foxxx is audibly on the edge of exploding on the mic. Thinks amp up on the frenetic “Shake the Room,” (which features a surprisingly outstanding Flavor Flav) but it’s not until “wEaRe aT WaR” until Bump is fully snarling on the mic. As Bump chin-checks wack emcees, calls out bootleggers, and pays homage to fallen comrades, it’s apparent that the New York native’s lane may be well-worn, but he operates very well within it.
Many emcees that have been in the game for as long as Bumpy has suffer from the same issue: they complain about how their status doesn’t match up to the quality of the music they’ve put out. Regardless of whether those complaints are valid, they always end up detracting from the quality of the music. To Bumpy’s credit, he doesn’t fall into the trap of self-pity and self-righteousness that many of his peers have. Dude gets on the mic and rhymes – period. His rhetoric may get repetitive at times, but by and large the gritty Strong Island vet gets the job done.
While Freddie Foxxx remains just as ferocious on the mic as ever, kicking in the door on every single track; so it’s a little disappointing to see that DJ Premier didn’t come quite as prepared. While blaring horns provide the perfect antihero music for Bump on “They Key,” “Ownit,” is little more than an uninspired piano loop. Fortunately, the bad ends up being the exception, not the rule. “More Levels” features well-timed bass and outstanding use of vocal samples courtesy of Royce Da 5’9 and Truck Turner, while Preme displays his mastery of piano loops and breakdowns on “eVrEEbOdEE.” Given that many of these beats were rejected by other artists, the listener can’t help but wonder: which ones were passed over because the emcee wasn’t feeling them, and which ones were passed over because the emcee wasn’t capable of rhyming over them?
Some listeners may take umbrage that the tracks “P.A.I.N.E.,” “The Lah,” and “The Gang Starr Bus” have appeared on previous projects, but their inclusion serves to bolster the project, than detract from it. The listener can gain just as much insight from the inclusion of these select cuts as from the reflections included at the start of various tracks. Ultimately, that’s why KoleXXXion is such an appropriate title: it’s a compilation of Bumpy’s thoughts, executed unapologetically in his classic style.