I think we can all agree that there has been somewhat of a “grown man”
movement in Hip Hop in recent years. More and more frequently, we are seeing
artists who are (trying to be) more mature with the music they make. The sharp
and articulate emcee may not be dominating airwaves, but with the help of such
acts as Lupe and Little Brother, what may have once been
niche-rap, out shadowed by the Hovs,
and Shadys of the world, has really
established itself as a permanent part of the culture. Enter SoulStice and Haysoos, collectively known as Wade
Waters
, and their debut LP, Dark
Water
.

Where Kanye has made his name off
of dropping out of college, this Chicago and D.C./Maryland collective have
actually conquered the education world and then some. Haysoos teaches at the Univerity
of Maryland
as a PhD student and SoulStice
holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and, believe it or not,
works for the United States Department
of Defense
.

Aside from all this, these dudes can rhyme their asses off. They prove their
skills on every one of Dark Water‘s
fourteen cuts. “Rock Solid” would best serve as the epitome of the record’s
general feel. Cuban Link lends a
hand and a verse to perfectly executed fusion of early ’90s boom bap and funk
with today’s soul swagger. AZ shows
up later and puts a stamp on the east coast flavor of this record on “Speak On
It,” the only other guest spot and an album standout that speaks of age both in
and out of rap music.

SBE Audiologist deserves special
credit for producing “Movement Music” and “Tread That Water.” Rarely are
samples flipped to step to so well this side of 9th Wonder. “Man to Man,” one of many gems supplied by Analogic, proves you can be raw and
gritty without having to sling or bust caps. SoulStice and Haysoos
straight up show off on “Right Back.” It’s pretty tough to find a better
example of sharp “I’m dope and here’s why” lyrics. “The Conversation” is a
track everyone should listen to. Bars are shared in the form of a real conversation
between two aware dudes and cover everything from Katrina and Iraq to Illmatic
and “The South.” It’s real and intelligent but has enough everyman flavor to
avoid being preachy.

The bottom line: 2006 rounds up nicely and this is one more dope LP to add
to the books. Audiologist, Analogic,
Shuko, Kev Brown, Bring It Back
and Speaks
produce wall-to-wall dopeness and SoulStice
and Haysoos architect a record
anyone would be proud of. Dark Water
may not reach out and rip your face off the way Lupe did this summer, but Wade
Waters
definitely gets the job done. It’s funny, once upon a time we
praised the likes of Kanye, Roots Crew and Little Brother for
being a “breath of fresh air.” I don’t think we can say that anymore. This
is Hip Hop. It is. Class dismissed.