La Coka Nostra [click to read] represent both the heights of pop music and the glass ceiling of underground popularity. Comprised of members from platinum-selling group House of Pain and independent heavyweights Non Phixion [click to read] and Special Teamz, the Nostra fam are an anomaly looking to find their own niche in Hip Hop. On their debut album A Brand You Can Trust, the LCNBrand is pitched as hard-hitting Hip Hop with a twist of Rock & Roll.

Slaine and Ill Bill join House of Pain members DJ Lethal, Danny Boy, and Everlast for an adventure in “official hardcore product.” Given the group members’ backgrounds, it’s not surprising that A Brand You Can Trust features thrashing guitar samples, eardrum-popping beats, and straight-for-the-jugular wordplay. They waste no time in sharing their manifesto, using the guitar-driven “Get By” to declare, Hate will fill your rage, drugs will get you high/Money buys respect, love will get you by. That theme is ever-present as practically all songs on Brand, from the lead-off “Bloody Sunday” to the closing “Fuck Tony Montana,” provide similarly-themed concrete for the ears.

La Coka Nostra is a constant blend of ferociousness and mean melodies added for good measure. DJ Lethal and The Alchemist [click to read] headline the production efforts that are often active and ominous. “Gun In Your Mouth” has a soft acoustic guitar sample stacked on top of an electric guitar and a sharp vocal sample that showcases the three emcees’ complementing styles. Everlast‘s raspy voice is chilling, and occasionally grating; Ill Bill is matter-of-factly harsh rhyming, We the real thing, we bring Scorsese to reality;” and Slaine is more collected at most times, but just as vicious lyrically. That same playbook is used for “Bang Bang” as Slaine rhymes, The methods to my madness is idiotic/If violence is a disease, then everybody in my city got it.

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“Nuclear Medicinemen” and “The Stain” show that the group is not just about aimless bloodlust and drug binges. The latter is LCN in Whitey Ford mode as Everlast bleakly sings warnings to a woman surrounded by evil. The bluesy track gets a sudden burst of energy each time a rap verse is added, which helps make this one of the album’s standout songs. Later on, Q-Unique and Immortal Technique [click to read] join the politically-tinged “Nuclear Medcinemen,” which follows in the energetic, distrusting legacy of Non-Phixion. Immortal Technique is expectedly scornful, but Everlast takes the most incendiary shots saying, Run get your guns, shoot George and his sons / We’re taking fortunes from all the fortunate ones / Straight Robin Hoods screaming ‘Fuck the law/ And they planned 9-11, fuck what you saw.

A Brand You Can Trust
has its dull moments in the form of a disposable verse or an
underwhelming beat, but those moments are rare. The album is a mostly
solid effort and exactly what someone would expect from a supergroup of
like-minded members known for high-energy music. La Coka Nostra discovered a natural blend of each member’s musical history and packaged it into a strong brand of hardcore Hip Hop.