Having worked with the likes of Black Star, Hobo Junction, and Dose One (among many others), not to mention partnerships in both the Lone Catalysts (with J. Sands) and 3582 (with Fat Jon), it’s a wonder that Columbus, Ohio’s J. Rawls has had any time to put together one solo album, let alone two. Here he is though, following up 2001’s The Essence of J. Rawls with his first instrumental project, Histories Greatest Battles, Campaigns and Topics, released on the ever fan-friendly Female Fun Records. Letting his lush compositions speak for themselves, Rawls not only laces up one of the tightest production-based albums since the term became chic, he’s also put together one of the best conceptual albums Hip-Hop has ever seen - which is all the more remarkable considering the non-verbal nature of the LP.
Utilizing the full potential of the album’s eleven tracks, Rawls makes it clear that his cleverness isn’t solely restricted to freaking exquisite samples; by naming his songs after actual historic events, Histories is thought provoking literally before the first listen. Titles like “Sixty-Three is The Jubilee” and “February 14, 1929” beg further research, while the sound-bites added to “America, Fulfill Your Promise” and “Bobby Seale Bound and Gagged” could very well inspire the political activists of tomorrow. Those not interested in history or politics will still enjoy Rawls’s mellow arrangements, which are perfect for relaxing and chilling to. The aforementioned “Sixty-Three is The Jubilee” boasts a loop that seems like it could honestly brighten up any cloudy day, while “February 14, 1929” and “The Art of War” are simply addictive to listen to. Fat Jon lends a funky flute to “The Black Brigade of Cincinnati (Outcome),” adding spontaneity to an already catchy beat. “Welcome to North Africa” is the album’s biggest musical risk, featuring tribal drums and singing befitting the song’s title. As icing on the cake, even the brief interludes separating each track come off nicely.
Although Histories Greatest Battles, Campaigns and Topics isn’t an exclusively instrumental piece (there’s one track each featuring emceeing and R & B crooning), Rawls’s latest opus ranks highly among the best beat-based albums in that ever growing genre. With his creative use of song titling, the album’s concept also rates as one of the best ever and certainly as one of the most educational. What else is to be expected of a producer who doubles as a teacher though? If he keeps dropping the same high quality product, there’s no doubt that Rawls is on his way to cementing his place in Hip-Hop history.