The Outsidaz have always been one of my favorite groups from New Jerusalem. Even though I always checked for Young Zee more, Pacewon has always maintained respect with hungry rhymes, a wild flow and a gritty voice. After many solo bootlegs, solo unofficial releases, and 2 official Outsidaz releases, Pacewon has finally released his debut solo album "Won" and it is filled to the brim with gritty and grimy hip hop.
With Ski from Roc-A-Bloc producing a majority of the album, "Won" has a very consistent sound. Even though many songs sound the same and blend together the first couple of listens, the overall vibe is strong and the beats are range from better-than-decent to dope. Gritty and grimy are the key words. It truly paints a vivid picture of cold, concrete streets of Brick City a.k.a. Newark, N.J.
"Sunroof Top," produced by Pacewon himself, is a perfect opener with its thick bass line and dirty drum kicks. There is a strong sinister vibe on this track and Pacewon flows very well using a familiar hook but cutting it short. Pacewon handles production on two more tracks. "Locked" is extremely low-fi. It truly sounds like he just put an instrumental Hawaiian / 'Fantasy Island'-type guitar record on the turntable and just rapped over it. There's nothing added to the sample. It's just him and an old record. I wouldn't be surprised if he did it alone in his bedroom. In a way, it seems lazy. In another way, it adds to the whole do-it-yourself, underground and grimy vibe of the album. Pacewon truly rides the guitar instrumental without stopping declaring that he has the art of emceeing on lock.
While many of the tracks do blend together because they are very short and sound somewhat similar, there are many standout cuts. "I Declare War" (produced by Ski) was a single that even had a video. It is a very dope flute-driven track that sounds like it's out of a Blaxpoitation film. The stoned out mellow feel of "Bring It Out Of Me" featuring Richie Thumbs was produced by Ski also. It's a very cool track with ethereal female backing vocals singing melodies within the beat. There's a cool reggae vibe on it too. As Pacewon has boisterous verses about smoking weed, the hook has a stoned-out whisper quality that perfectly balances the track out. "Money Hungry" featuring Rah Digga (produced by Ski) has a very driving electronic sounding beat that sounds a little like a cheap version of a Rockwilder beat. Both Digga and Pace give a very energetic performances. Also worthy of mentioning is "Thieves Theme" - a very humorous track about stealing. The deep piano pounding and the dreamy keyboard melody flows around the track as Pacewon declares that he's "The number 1 Crook on the streets!" He tells of various things to steal and how he just loves to take what is not his. "If you leave your wallet just laying around, I'm a steal it!" I haven't seen an honest love for shoplifting since Thirstin Howl III and Rack Lo.
Besides Ski, 2 other producers each make an important mark on the album. Wyclef Jean produces and appears on "It's Yours;" another sinister track which paints a vivid and gritty picture of the ghettos of New Jerusalem. This is a dope track that could have been a successful single. Guests (as well as producers other than Ski) are limited on this album. Most of the tracks are Pacewon all by himself. Sure, Rah Digga is on two songs and Young Zee is on two songs too. "What You Know" features Kurupt and Young Zee; the outcome being a quality cut with that hungry energy that Outsidaz and DPG fans love.
Even though it is a dope album, there are some flaws. Firstly, many of the songs do sound the same and follow a typical formula. Some of the tracks have that low-fi quality. "Locked" is a perfect example of this. Also, many of these tracks have been on bootlegs, or underground unofficial releases too. "The Pacewon Effect" was released as an unofficial album years before "Won." Many songs now appear on "Won" without changes. There are also some filler tracks. "Rush", "Cowboys & Westerns" and "You" are not attention grabbers like the previous songs. All 3 tracks are back to back towards the end of the album. By this time, it's almost overkill.
While the last 2 Outsidaz releases "Night Life" EP and "The Bricks" were cool but still left something to be desired, "Won" by Pacewon is an album overflowing with music. Now, I cannot wait for Young Zee's solo debut. While Redman reps Brick City on Def Jam records and rips smoked out rhymes on glossier beats, Pacewon remains gritty and underground as he lyrically paints a grimy portrait of Newark, NJ. Since all the songs are short and many have the same feel, the album flows very quickly. This also makes the replay value a little better than average if you do not own any of the previous unofficial Pacewon solo releases. Pacewon is a hungry emcee from the underground and his prevailing love for hip hop is not only evident, but crucial. Even though he has been around for years, it is refreshing to hear such hungry rhymes and dirty underground beats.