Crown City Rockers
The Day After Forever
Gold Dust Media
Back once again with some quality Hip-Hop recommendations for your eager eardrums. It's been a minute, I know and we'll get to that. But all you need to know about The Crown City Rockers is that Raashan Ahmad is an excellent MC - his solo release was one of my favorite albums of 2008 - and this is one of the seemingly few instances this side of The Roots featuring some genuine actual live instrumentation on a Hip-Hop record. Intrigued? Read on.
I remember geeking out in college talking about all the West Coast Hip-Hop records when one of the cool kids blew our minds by informing us that Dr. Dre used actual drums rather than drum machines on "The Chronic". It was late, so that could have been part of it. But anyhow, it brought to my mind how strange it was that there weren't more live Hip-Hop bands like The Roots and since then I'm constantly on the lookout for some real drums, keyboards, and guitar in my Hip-Hop. IMHO, there's just not enough of it! I mean, lots of groups use live instrumentation in their shows (not that there's anything wrong with a DJ and a mic, that's the core of all this anyhow - but you know, variety and all that) but not so many do so on their records. Well, here with a shining example an MC with some live musicians can be a good thing are Oakland's own Crown City Rockers.
Crown City's on some straight up Rhythm and Blues-slash-Jazz tip here spinning mellow as all beats and complimenting them with some MPC-samples and of course, the talented Mr. Raashan Ahmad. In fact, before I continue, you should download the single "Soul" from Amazon. It's FREE. I'll wait.
...got it? Now give it a listen. Easily one of the highlights of the album with it's nice uptempo, futuristic sound that somehow remains still grounded in jazz. Lyrically, Raashan is on point and you have to love the reference to the classic "You Know You Got Soul". Raashan's definitely got soul and he knows his Soul music history:
I'm on my Kool and The Gang when I get down on it
Super Fly Love like the Pips sang on it
Old soul like the Delphonics in this Bitch
But I'm new day soul with a new day hit
The rest of the album follows "Soul" in terms of influence and tone, so if you're digging that, you'll definitely love "Go On". Freaking great keys on that one. It definitely bridges the gap between jazz and Hip-Hop in an oh-so positive way. It's got a great, breezy vibe to it and that live production really shines through. There's a decidedly "Mint Condition" feel to it as well (remember them?). Peep the hreat jazz-break towards the end as well where they just let it breathe for a minute or two. Plain old goodness.
Lyrically things stay pretty upbeat with topics ranging from spitting game, Raashan's musical influences and lyrical skill, annoying girlfriends, and just the feeling that good music can give you. This last topic in particular is the subject of my personal favorite track, "Make It Hotter" There's just a great energy to the song. Still a beat grounded in the Jazz-Hip-Hop fusion, but the spin is so positive it's infectious. The vocal sample is ill. This type of song can just lit you up from whatever stresses you are having in life. But that's not to say that there's not some real emotion to it. On perhaps the most personal moment of the record - "That's Live" - Raashan gets very personal to let you know how he came up:
It was the loneliest summer had in all of my years
The hot pain and the feeling I had crystal clear
Family now falling apart
Folks saddened by the struggle
Taking my mom
Flesh and hard working 20 years
Held tears under my pillow the feeling for real
I'm seeing the deal
Pressure from bills and too much work
Not enough time to get together sever the wise
Now the time not allowed for family ties and
What a surprise
Another Black family dies
I don't think I need to say this again, but what the heck; I love Hip-Hop with a real message to it. That message doesn't necessarily have to always be about saving the world. I just want to be able to feel that the lyrics represent the individual performing them. Well, that's what you get here. This album is just raw Hip-Hop happily married to Rhythm and Blues and Jazz. Download "Soul" and see what I mean.
4.250 out of 5
|1. Intro (00:15)|
|2. Break (02:43)||3|
|3. Soul (03:20)||5|
|4. Kiss (feat. Silya) (03:01)||4|
|5. Go On (feat. Aima) (03:11)||5|
|6. Astroshocks (03:29)||3|
|7. Go Away (03:39)||4|
|8. Cruisin' (feat. Destani Wolf) (03:08)||4|
|9. Let's Love (02:38)||4|
|10. Clap Your Hands (feat. Aima) (04:47)||5|
|11. Make It Hotter (03:10)||5|
|12. That's Life (feat. Jason Jasper) (04:42)||5|
|13. Forever Song (03:43)||4|