When it comes to hip-hop supergroups, it’s usually the best policy to not get your hopes up. Sure, the members of eMC—Wordsworth, Punchline, Masta Ace and Stricklin–have already worked together in different capacities, but a complete album could be a different picture. Often, these dream collaborations have exceedingly high expectations that are unlikely to get met anyway. Plus, many supergroups have difficulty with cohesion for several emcees on one song, much less over the course of an entire album. But with its collective veteran sensibility, experience from previous collaborations and the guidance of Ace, eMC makes it happen.
The Show mirrors the linear narrative format that Ace has used on his solo albums, telling the story of eMC traveling out of town to perform at a concert. Several of the songs have a direct correlation with the story, and with all four emcees’ ability to execute concepts through their lyrics, it all flows smoothly. “Don’t Give Up On Us” sees them comforting their ladies while they’re on the road, the title track describes four frantic trips to make it to the group’s performance, and “Borrow U” has the quartet embracing groupie love. Even though every song isn’t fundamental to the storyline, the skits and the songs that are part of it give the album a sense of unification and gradual movement.
And that’s how The Show succeeds: specifics aside, the disc is just full of great hip-hop music. Production from the likes of Ayatollah, Frequency and Nicolay doesn’t necessarily push the envelope, but it knocks, and it ably backs the rhymes of eMC. Topics like homage to mothers (“U Let Me Grow”), the changes in the rap game since they first entered (“Winds of Change”), overall highs and lows (“We Alright”) and braggadocio aren’t new territory at all; but each emcee delivers his verse flawlessly, and they stick to the script so they can succeed as a unit. Punch & Words rekindle the chemistry they had as a duo, bringing the core chemistry that made groups like Wu-Tang Clan and Boot Camp Clik successful. Stricklin‘s street sensibilities are perfectly contrasted with the underground feel of the rest of the group. These cats know hip-hop, and this album shows them proving it, track after track.
While The Show admittedly didn’t have much room to slip up on, it’s still gratifying to hear the project end up so well from top to bottom. Crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s with their fundamentalist approach, other supergroups should take notes.