Once one of Hip Hop’s most promising up and coming emcees, Planet Asia has squandered one too many attempts to live up to the billing. With mediocre album after mediocre album, the next LP was always supposed to be “the Planet Asia album you’ve been waiting for.” His production choices were never consistent; ranging from the outstanding (“Fresno State of Mind”) to the god awful (“It’s All Big”), and his solo albums have always dulled on the heels of his preceding and usually banging mixtapes. 2006’s The Medicine [click to read] was supposed to be the remedy to all that, with wall-to-wall Evidence production and years or artistic mistakes to learn from. But The Medicine turned out to be largely Nyquil, so King Medallions has turned to a true master.

One of Hip Hop’s all-time great producers, DJ Muggs [click to read] is no stranger to producing entire albums. From Cypress Hill to Funkdoobiest to Soul Assassins to GZA, Muggs has a near unfuckwitable track record spanning two decades. If anyone is going to help Fresno’s finest reach his full potential, it is Cypress Hill‘s backbone.

Pain Language starts off on a high note; royal horns carry “Sleeper Cell” as Asia rocks the rugged production. “9mm” is pure chaos all around, and PA thrives, spraying his verbal weaponry.  Another perfect marriage is made on “Drama” with Asia weaving an intense story over the serene production. Planet Asia doesn’t always sound so comfortable over Muggs‘ dark soundscapes, he struggles to find a flow over a trademark beat on the title track. “That’s What It Is” is very much the same, as Asia sounds lost over the driving production. As he struggles again to find the mark on the ominous “The King Is Here,” you can’t help but wish B-Real or GZA had been giving this instrumental.

PA sounds re energized each time he’s joined by a guest. Killah Priest, Cynic & Scratch come through on “Black Angels” and Asia tears up with is one of Muggs‘ more lackluster joints on the album. The duo stays true to their language theme, going back to the origin of the word assassin on “Hashahins.” The lyrics don’t follow suit, but the Chace Infinite and Turban-assisted song still works. The album closes out the way it came in; on a high note. Perhaps the highest, Chase and GZA appear on the appropriately titled and very dope “Triple Threat.”

There is little to turn your nose up at on Pain Language, but little to go wild about either. While Muggs provides far from his best work on the boards, the album reveals once and for all that Planet Asia‘s strength just doesn’t lie in solo albums. His unique style is a beautiful compliment to another emcee (see the underground classic Cali Agents How The West Was One), but on his own it grows tiresome and his relative lack of dimensions as an emcee shows. No shame in that, not every good actor is a leading man. Nevertheless, until we get another Cali Agents album, Pain Language is a solid effort worthy of some study.