Deejays have often had some of the best ears for what truly deft
rapping ought to sound like. From Premier to Toomp to Quik, this has
been proven true by how these mixmasters bring the best out of top
emcees. X-Ecutionerz founder Rob Swift was instrumental in working with
acts like Akinyele and Large Professor
[click to read]
in the early ’90s, and after evolving into deejay trio Ill Insanity,
sought out Long Island emcee Dashah to complement the scratches.
Initially released in the third quarter of 2008, this digital-only gem
has been subsequently updated, stamped as Rap Burglar 2.5, and given
all the more is the one of the most nostalgic, digestible storytellers
you’ve probably never heard of.

From the same Wyandanch region
of Long Island that spawned luminaries like Rakim
[click to read]
and Erick Sermon
[click to read],
Dashah has a ’90s approach to his writing and delivery. “Thought Y’all
Knew” carries a syncopated flow as rhythmic as the beat, as the
force-fed words warn, “I’m in the kitchen, pushin’ something harder
than crack
.” Like the top ’90s New York emcees, Dashah refuses to be
soft, and still manages to counter the drug-dealing topics of
present-day. “The Promoter” uses the vivid and liquid storytelling
styles of Masta Ace
[click to read]
and Nas with a twist at the end, a la Common‘s
[click to read] “Testify.” This is
smarter rap than the norm. “My Notebook” aligns closely with Nas‘ “Book
Of Rhymes”
[click to read],
to explore the lyricist’s toolkit. Although the subject matter may be a
weathered road, Dashah and his production don’t reinvent the wheel, but
accommodate the fan that still believes rap’s best years lived over a
decade ago.

Strangely, Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and Ill
keeps a distance (“Above The Clouds” aside) from the album’s
production – although presenting the project. Instead, Natural Diggers
and DJ Pause hold rank. Switzerland’s Diggers crew contributed a bulk
of the bonus tracks, having placed “Reflection” and “Thought Y’all
Knew” on the first edition. The latter reworks the same “Recognize”
sample used by Premier with The L.O.X., but with new scratch choruses
assembled by Nas, Wu and others. DJ Pause‘s “Coulda Woulda Shoulda” and
“Sittin’ On The Train” remind us why vocal Soul sampling was hot in the
first place, with a sound a bit more Hi-Tek
[click to read] than Heatmakerz.
Dashah‘s lyrics don’t ignore contemporary times or references, and
still manage to feel dusty. The beats do just the same.

there’s anything Rap Burglar 2.5 is actually stealing, it’s everything
conservative Hip Hop fans enjoyed about the mid-’90s. This is not
Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt and Doggystyle in one” (so said The Game),
but a simple reminder that lyrical integrity, the art of storytelling
and beats built upon great sample records of yesteryear are all still
possible. At a time where new rappers are flooding your hard drive with
“see if it sticks” content, Dashah is the best emcee out of Long Island
in years, with a winning “don’t go to them, let them come to you”