"In Search of Stoney Jackson" by Strong Arm Steady

Strong Arm Steady
In Search of Stoney Jackson

Stones Throw Records
2010

Review

Madlib is on point and in focus bringing with him his usual assortment of samples only a true loop digger could find. With the help of a large group of talented and hungry MC's, this is exactly the type of album that true underground hip hop fiends salivate over. If you are in this group I would recommend that you wear a bib when you listen to the record. There's a lot more to say, but that's the long and short of it. Hit that more link if you need further exposition/explanation or if you are just the curious type.

...I doubt anyone would ever say that Madlib doesn't have too many side projects.

While I have always appreciated many of these, sometimes I start to wonder about the man's focus. For instance how when in the middle of an ill Quasimoto track all of a sudden the music will stop and be replaced by something sounding like a 1950's television ad. His acid-jazz projects are intriguing, but sometimes I don't always love every track on the album; the Beat Konducta series has moments of brilliance that come with many "you gotta be high out of your mind" moments that my lifestyle doesn't particularly vibe with. That said, when Madlib gets behind the boards with 100% focus to produce a no-nonsense Hip-Hop record, you had best hold on to your shit because your mind will be blown. For fans of Stones Throw Record's most prolific artist, I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know (and perhaps to all ten of you out there - only ten because of site traffic not because of Madlib's insane talent - I may be oversimplifying things a bit) but for everyone else Madlib has blessed the Hip Hop fan with a number of classic albums like his collaboration with MF Doom as "Madvillain" on Madvillany and his collaboration with the late-great J. Dilla as "Jaylib" on Champion Sound it seems that Madlib - when paired with the right MC's - can nearly always create something magical (yes, like "fighting dragons and shit" magical). This set is yet another example of this.

Some of the MC's that Madlib has cozied up to here are names that are well known in the west coast underground Hip Hop scene - notably Phil Da Agony, Guilty Simpson, Evidence and Planet Asia - while others are somewhat less well known (at least to me) such as Mitchy Slick. Although presumably an album by a group - whose members are Phil Da Agony, Krondon (for me of The Rules fame), and Mitchy Slick - the sheer number of guest spots would seemingly create the feeling of a compilation rather than an outing by a singular group. However, to the credit of those that are involved here (and especially Madlib) this is a surprisingly consistent and coherent album. As the criticism might be against other group projects in this spot (think Group Home without Primo) I'm not sure that I would want to listen to an album by this group without the super producer behind the boards. That is not to say that these guys don't bring some sick rhymes with them, but just that I feel that without the right production the tightness of the flow could be missed. But that's neither here nor there. The fact is that SAS and company have excellent chemistry with Madlib who does what great producers are supposed to do: create beats that compliment the MC's that are going to be spitting over them.

Impressions:

Best of Times Ft. Phonte - Phonte is the go-to man for a chorus right now as I've said before. Unlike his guesting on RJD2's latest, here he gets to spit a few bars (Poor-folk need help they call it welfare, but rich-folk need it then y'all call it a bailout. It make me wanna yell out) in addition to providing the R&B hook. The beat is a deceiving simple one with a nice mellowed-out bass line and a nice mix of various soulful sounds. This is just a nice slice of Hip Hop goodness.

Cheeba Cheeba - Another souled-out beat that amazes. It's getting harder to make rhyming about smoking weed sound fresh, but well, here it is.

Chititlins & Pepsi - I love this track. Normally you get tracks about how hot the rapper's women are. Here you get a song how their all natural diets (Planet Asia - My organic supplement, always something healthy in the Tupperware, I'm eating from the ground as long as we have an atmosphere). I haven't been this excited for food rap since MM...Food.

Telegram - Static in stereo gives way to a Dilla Donut-esque little beat.

Questions - Potentially one of the illest beats on an album full of them. Just ridiculous. Sample it to see what I mean. It's strange to me that here the lyrics come secondary. It's almost as if the MC's cadence is the beat and the beat is the verse.

Smile - A short track with a beat so raw you can hear the record spinning on an old phonogram. Lyrically, you get a smile-worthy set of lyrics about how a particular woman manages her oral hygiene to great effect.

New Love Ft. Planet Asia & Tri-State - The chorus sounds a bit like Dudley Perkins. More raw soul samples this time in the form of some Ray Charles-esque screaming. The beat really sells this one as the lyrics fit right in with the tracks, but are almost upstaged by the beat itself.

Get Started Ft. Talib Kweli - Fans of Liberation will smile immediately after seeing this one on the track list. And believe you me, it does not disappoint. Madlib does an excellent job matching the beat to the MC, and this track shows you what I mean as he seems to raise the stage in terms of energy to match the always excellent Talib Kweli (Aw yeah, that's right. Back for seconds. Y'all got it backwards like a Black Sabbath record.). It seems that competition brings the lyrical A-game out of the other SAS MC's as well.

Interlude 1 - LOL. Like something out of The Beat Konducta's movie scenes.

Pressure - Wow. The beat sounds like Nosaj Thing doing the theme music from Rocky. Rapid, spitfire lyrics come at you and overall this is a good one to lift weights to. Ridiculous lyrics here:

Smoke weed
Dream Big
Notorious
Stanley steel delorian
Future rap-shit historian
Take you back to the origin

True Champs Ft. Montage One, Evidence, Oh No & Roc C - Another case where competition raises the stage for the SAS MC's. A simple snare drum drives innumerable chopped up soul and orchestra samples and pushes some raw braggadocio swagger lyrics to the breaking point.

Needle In The Haystack Ft. Roscoe & Guilty Simpson - The second most hype beat on the record, SAS and company kill it over a gameshow-like sample, some animal-like sounds, and some dancehall shout outs (think Champion Sound).

Interlude 2 - LOL. Everyone in the else having a goodtime, let me hear you say yeah!

Ambassadors Ft. Planet Asia & Chace Infinite - One of two tracks that seemed a bit flat to me. Hey, you can't win them all! Not bad, just a bit flat on the production.

Chants - hmmm...chants??? I'm seriously tempted to make this my ringtone.

Bark Like A Dog Ft. Phats Bossalini & Montage One - I get the George Clinton vibe. But it's a waaay out there. Although the lryics are on point as SAS list out their favorite MC's in the game (Best hooks go out to Nate Dawg and T-Pain).

Two Pistols Ft. Mitchy Slick - Normally it's had for me to get into some gun rap (as in, "I'm going to shoot you" but they mean in the lyrical sense and just use a lot of real-life violence/gun metaphors to explain themselves). But this one is saved by some nice quotables, for instance:

Corny like Carson Daily
This is your Last Call
Put a gun straight to your head
Hate to blast y'all

Outro - We don't want to be left behind. All we want to do is just blow your mind one more time.

I think the outro says it enough. Consider my mind blown.

4.231 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Best of Times (feat. Phonte) (03:57) 5
2. Cheeba Cheeba (02:45) 4
3. Chittlins & Pepsi (feat. Planet Asia) (04:21) 5
4. Telegram (00:59)
5. Questions (feat. Planet Asia & Fashawn) (04:04) 5
6. Smile (01:41) 4
7. New Love (feat. Planet Asia & Tri-State) (04:46) 5
8. Get Started (feat. Talib Kweli) (03:03) 5
9. Interlude 1 (01:10)
10. Pressure (feat. Sick Jacken & Mitchy Slick) (03:46) 5
11. True Champs (feat. Montage One, Evidence, Oh No & Roc C) (04:30) 5
12. Needle in the Haystack (feat. Roscoe & Guilty Simpson) (02:01) 3
13. Interlude 2 (00:26)
14. Ambassadors (feat. Planet Asia & Chace Infinite) (03:30) 3
15. Chants (01:08)
16. Bark Like a Dog (feat. Phats Bossalini & Montage One) (03:58) 3
17. Two Pistols (feat. Mitchy Slick) (03:28) 3
18. Outro (01:20)