The Lyricist Lounge started off as an open mic platform where unknown artists could showcase their talent. This concept was reinforced with the release of the “Lyricist lounge volume 1” double disc on Rawkus records, which showcased unsigned and lesser-known rap talent. The result was rare: an extremely dope compilation album. 2 years later (after the Lyricist lounge has transformed into an MTV show) we are hit with volume 2. For those of us who (for some strange reason) expected the Lyricist Lounge to stay true to it’s roots of showcasing little-known talent, it was very surprising to see the likes of JT Money, Pastor Troy, and Macy Gray, all of which are neither talented or little-known. Even with the commercialized lineup, I still wouldn’t be mad at this release, if it was dope.
The album kicks off with the successful single “Oh No”. This is one of the songs that has both dopeness, and commercial appeal as Rockwilder laces the track nicely for Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch to rip, while Nate Dogg holds down the club audience with his radio-friendly chorus.
Would you believe that on a track featuring Beanie Sigel on the mic, and Hi-tek on the boards, that it is the beat that is lacking and the rhymes that are on point? It shocked me, but Hi-tek made some garbage here, and Beanie had some dope lines. This song really should be on a Beanie Sigel album, though.
Another attempt to mix worlds is “Makin it Blend” by Q-tip, and Wordsworth. Unfortunately it sounds way too much like a Q-tip song, and not enough like a Wordsworth track. The beat is annoying, as is Q-tip, and Wordsworth is also dragged into this abyss of sonic displeasure.
The album shines brightest at the points where Rawkus stays true to it’s roots, letting the underground people who got them here in the first place, do their thing. One example is the track “He Lives” by Last Emperor and The RZA, produced by Prince Paul. This is conceptual brilliance as RZA plays the role of mad scientist creating the ultimate emcee (Frankenstein style), played by Last Emp. The result is fantastic. Some of the other standout tracks being “Right and Exact” by Dilated (produced by the Alchemist), and the ode to the gun by Kweli and dead prez, “Sharp Shooters”.
The main problem on this album is production. While Primo, Alchemist and Prince Paul all lend a gem or two, for the most part the production is lackluster. While the album features some extremely dope emcees, it also features intensely terrible ones, as well, resulting in dopeness being cancelled by wackness. The bottom line is that the album has severe ups and downs, and no semblance of consistency whatsoever. Rawkus is one of the few labels that have been able to put together multiple high quality compilations, which raised the bar on most of our expectations. Unfortunately, this album just helps feed into the stereotype: Compilations don’t work.