It’s a shame that I hadn’t heard of Prince Ali before
I put in my bid to review his album. It’s mostly my fault, as I consider myself
a true Hip-Hop head, but it’s kind of ridiculous that this MC from the Golden
State has received little recognition, little press, and absolutely no radio
play (no surprise there), as he has recorded one of the most creative Hip-Hop
albums in recent memory. But by the tone of his effort, and the determination
in his vocal cords, Prince Ali has a message to spread, and we have no
choice but to listen.

There is a Hip-Hop renaissance of sorts taking place in California, with such artists
as Madlib, Murs and Blu serving soul-fueled creativity to
a people starving for real music. Heiro Imperium, the legendary Oakland, CA
record label, took notice of Prince Ali’s vision, and from there Curb
Side Service
was born; a brilliant and eclectic piece of work that should
serve as an artistic awakening to every MC who wants to record an album. Ali
spits his complex couplets over Cali
soaked melodies, wanting to prove his worth in a game that desperately needs
his genius.

Curb Side Service is not your typical Rap album; it
resonates as a labor of Prince Ali’s love for all kinds of music: R&B,
Soul, Jazz and that sticky sweet California G-Funk. The album is a sweeping composition,
with a host of talented producers and featured guest creating piercing
soundscapes tailor made for Prince Ali’s intricate storytelling. The
album is introduced to our ears with The Marquee; a collage of drums,
samples and sounds that gives us a glimpse into Prince Ali’s thought
process. He then takes us on The Path, a moody, dimmed concord that
illustrates Ali, Rakaa Iriscience and Pacific Sonz
choosing to take lead, as the weak follow. On the track Whom I’m being, Ali
shows his penchant for distinctive wordplay; “penny for your thoughts that
you can’t borrow/take that to the bank so ya ass can get paid.” California Ciff
is brilliant, with murky keys served over searing drums, as Ali and
Pep Love warn us to wake up and pay attention to the lesson they are teaching,
before we end up in summer school.

The crown gem of the album is The Majors,
a classic anecdote featuring Casual, Planet Asia, and the
refreshing Keith Murray. The Strong Island MC still has a knack for
unorthodox phrases; I’m a MC/ I don’t even gotta touch ya/ to break down ya
whole molecular structure.”
It seems as if sometimes Prince Ali is
in his own world, speaking his own language, and we sometimes get lost in
translation, but the music alone is worth going along for the ride.

As a devoted Muslim, a NYU Masters graduate and a true MC, Prince
has found that he can relay stories without the aura of sex, crime, and
drugs. Curb Side Service should stand the test of time in Hip-Hop
history, and the more we listen, the more it will become clear; we are
spectators listening to Prince Ali acquaint us with his California dreams.