Expectations, or lack thereof, can make or break an album. It often takes years to really assess a highly-anticipated album without being affected by the hype. On the other side of the coin, expecting little and getting a lot can get you just as caught up. Enter Pacewon. During the late ’90s indie Hip Hop boom, the New Jersey-based Outsidaz were among the most hyped clicks around. Led by PaceYoung Zee and reinforced by affiliates Eminem and Rah Digga, the crew seemed destined to blow. Pacewon in particular, had folks drooling for a solo album. Unfortunately, 2002’s Won hit years too late and ’04’s Telepathy was a big disappointment. Years went by with none of the “rah rah” from Pace.

Defying expectations, The Only Color That Matters Is Green kicks off better than any album released this year. No joke, the first three songs can just stay on repeat. All respect due to Pace, who will be instantly likable to any newcomers with his breezy delivery, but it is Mr. Green‘s show. “Four Quarters” kicks it off something ridiculous, with raucous strings and banging drums. The track could have just as easily been be “PSA Pt. 2” with Hov tearing it apart. Green chops up a kids choir to form the exquisite “Children Sing” for Pace to flex some serious muscle over. “The Eye of the Needle” settles in third and sets the plate for the sound of the album. It is nothing fancy, just a piano loop and drums that will make you feel like its ’92.

The party continues as Pace appropriately waxes nostalgic on “Who I Am” and single “Hip Hop.” The latter once again proves that sometimes all you need is drums. The emcee enlists some help as he reminisces some more on “Childhood” alongside Cymarshall LawKosha Dillz and Mary Lou. Unlike 50 Cent or Milk D who’ve got it, Pace says he needs it and “I Need Money” is a stick up kids’ anthem rather than a laundry list of riches.

Unfortunately, the second half of the album features the only real flaws. “So Straight” is decent, but Green‘s production is a couple notches down from the rest of the album. The out of place and sub-par Eminem [click to read] diss “The Joker” is the album’s weakest link. Pace clearly feels like Slim turned his back once he got on, but with little ammunition or substance in the diss he just comes across as “rocks at the throne.” What’s worse is that is closes the album, when it couldn’t be a poorer representation of what this LP is about. The true gem late in the album is “She Can Be So Cold.” Fueled by a White Stripes sample mutilated by Mr. GreenPace weaves some wonderful storytelling about an elusive lady.

It has been a while since I’ve heard an album this easy to listen to. The Only Color That Matters Is Green is really the Pacewon album we’ve been waiting on for close to a decade. It’s fun, it’s basic, it just is what it is. No worrying about if it’s made for gangsters, hipsters, backpackers or whatever – this album’s remarkable production and almost infallible focus takes two outsiders, and puts them in the epicenter of Hip Hop’s best releases in 2008.