When Long Island emcee Diabolic broke into the Rap scene with a hidden verse on Immortal Technique’s 2001 album Revolutionary Volume 1, it was evident that his explosive, uncut rhyme style would be something underground circles could salivate over. However, despite his obvious prowess on the microphone, empty offers from labels over the years left him no choice but to steer clear from commitment until the perfect opportunity arose; then came along Viper Records, who gave Diabolic full control of his debut album. Now, with over three years of work put into this anticipated project, Diabolic is out to convince new and old listeners that the flame is still burning with Liar & A Thief.

The album starts off with a grandiose bang on “Stand By,” a track that serves as a precursor for what’s in store. As would be expected, Immortal Technique makes an appearance on Diabolic’s album through the track “Frontline.” Trading bars, the two rappers perform lyrical execution on a dark, haunting beat. With other notable artists such as Vinnie Paz and Canibus gracing Liar & A Thief with their presence, the strongest tracks undoubtedly come when Diabolic raps dolo. Consider “Reasons,” a record that finds Diabolic stressing his own personal vendettas. Calling out the identity of today’s industry, he rhymes, “Maybe I’m mad cause labels use food stamps to pay me / But I can’t be the only one who would rather hear Boot Camp than Jay-Z / So yeah I’m underground and my fans are backpackers / But at least my fans don’t buy mixtapes full of wack rappers.” Likewise, on his first single “I Don’t Wanna Rhyme,” Diabolic channels his anger into violent depictions that would make the average Hip Hop fan shutter.

Aware that going independent would limit his spending budget, Diabolic found a diamond in the rough with up-and-coming producer Engineer. The Vancouver, British Columbia native is present from beginning to end, and his production skills compliment Diabolic’s enraged, often self-destructive lyricism better than one could expect. “Order & Chaos” featuring Ill Bill takes the listener on an assassin’s journey, and Engineer’s beat acts as a perfect audio supplement to the vivid story being told. The same can be said for “Behind Bars,” to which Diabolic and Engineer’s collaboration draws comparisons to a late-’90s Slim Shady.  

Diabolic’s deepest flaw throughout Liar & A Thief is his inability to break away from subjects concerning violence, substance abuse, and political dissolution. It comes to the point that tracks seemingly blur together because the message is the same. Sure, maybe Jedi Mind Tricks and R.A. The Rugged Man practice similar tactics, but at least the listener can distinguish each of their tracks to a corresponding significance. Also, it doesn’t help that his collaboration with Canibus on “In Common” is lukewarm at best, as well as the fact that “Truth Part 2” is nowhere near the first part’s standards.

Regardless of what a person might assume they would hear from an emcee who promises he’ll “slash your throat for a pack of smokes if my ass was broke,” Liar & A Thief has a place on record store shelves. True, it may not gain radio spins at your local station, but at least there’s some truth in Diabolic’s tragic revelations. And who knows, maybe you’ll hear a little bit of yourself in his words.