First off, I'll start by saying I've been wanting to review this album for so long and let you know what you've been missing. Finally I got around to it. Hopefully in between the time that it took for me to write this, and the time since the record has been out, many of you have discovered it. It's been a solid couple of months for underground champs Babygrande Records, with the excellent Jedi Mind Tricks album dropping, followed by Hi-Teknology 2, and the latest offering from JMT cousins Outerspace only further cements what is becoming a pretty good year. Blood Brothers improves in almost every way from its predecessor, 2004's Blood and Ashes.
For the record, Blood and Ashes was a damn fine debut for Outerspace, so Blood Brothers definitely overcomes the sophomore curse. Executive produced by Vinnie Paz, the Outerspace sound has the JMT front man's fingerprints all over it, but still manages to maintain a positively independent musical direction. From the moment the gloomy plucks and vocal sample of the opener 'Blood Brothers' kicks in, you can be guaranteed you'll encounter nothing but hardcore, gritty, boom-bap street raps with NO joints for the ladies. And it's about time.
There's really not a skippable song here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that every record is awe-inspiring stuff. But there area lot of good tracks, and there are a few great tracks. 'Reign of Chaos' exhibits spacey and completely banging production while Crypt the Warchild and Planetary embrace their Latino heritage on 'Spanish Fly', a slightly surprising, hypnotic number which leans slightly towards a more 'commercial' nature, if you can indeed call it that, letting the beat ride out to show off a nice horn sample in the process.
The album also throws up a few surprises in terms of the guest list. D Block's Sheek Louch shows up on 'You Don't Like Me', to spit his consistent brand of murder raps, and demonstrates that old formulas often work the best, the track reminiscent of early LOX material over an ominous piano-laced backdrop. Similarly, the other rather unexpected combination of Royce Da 5'9 appearing on 'Street Massacre' which between its myriad of scratches and choir like sample displays a vicious reminder of just how serious Outerspace are with the rhymes This ain't no sing-a-long music, for you to ride up on/ this here is Street Massacre, music to dump on.
The avid hip-hop listener will also find a number of familiar samples that surprisingly avoid sounding played out, and are instead melded into heartfelt offerings ('Grown Ass Man') and straight-up underground heaters ('Hustle and Flow' with King Syze), the latter with its heaving bass line and highlighted with sharp strings. 'The Boiling Point' is a taut exercise in how to create a energy-packed, mid 90's head-nodder, and 'Drive By Music' is all in the name, propped up by a haunting vocal sample and sharp snares, it is a lesson in intimidation.
Blood Brothers works on nearly every level. The album almost always consistently flows from one track to the next, the 14 songs contained within is just about the right amount to keep one thoroughly hooked, and it has impressive production matched by an equal level of proficiency in the lyrical department. Not to mention the albums sparse features work successfully everytime. At times I tired of the repetitive subject-matter, but took it for what it was an album which is most definitely centered around hardcore, negative music, and tracks like the aforementioned 'Grown Ass Man' remedied this qualm into relative insignificance. I also could have done without the cheesy rock-rap stylings of 'Brute Force 2' which almost always never work, and the video game sampled and inspired 'Altered Beasts', but both really never negatively impact the overall presence of the album, making the latest offering from Outerspace a rare lesson in succinct and thoughtfully executed musicianship. Get Blood Brothers anyway you can, because Outerspace are starting to carve out a consistent and thoroughly deserved reputation for quality, independent hip-hop.