CunninLynguists - A Piece of Strange  
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written by Tolu Jegede   
Ill be real with you. With the exceptions of Outkast, Goodie Mob and Scarface, Im not really a fan of Southern hip-hop. Mike Jones? Come on. The dude that says his name a million times on a record? Lil Jon? Yeah, hes cool as a producer. He should never pick up the mike. Im sure theres a lot of underground Southern hip-hop that Im missing, but the music that I hear, at least in the mainstream, bores me. This is why Im so glad I caught wind of CunninLynguists new album, A Piece of Strange. After building a steady fan-base with the albums Will Rap for Food and Southernunderground, Kno and Deacon the Villain release their third album, A Piece of Strange, a mesmerizing record entirely devoid of fillers.

What I love about this album is that you cant categorize it. For a duo that originates in the South, this album sounds nothing like the stereotypical Southern hip-hop album. Deacon the Villain spends more time touching on spirituality, inner-city struggles, and battle raps than rhyming about Cadillacs and gold fronts, and Knos production is so subtly and beautifully crafted that it gives me goose bumps. After Where Will You Be, a short intro complete with wistful guitar licks and deep crooning, the album gets off to a rousing start with Since When, where Deacon and emcee Natti (who shows up on seven out of sixteen tracks) go tit-for-tat in expert battle rhymes:

Deacon: We flava the music, chop this screw that/ take you through church in a verse til you view fact /holy ghost, from the lowly coast, spit humility /facin critics cold fronts, blockin our humidity.

Natti dazzles especially, eschewing materialism by saying hell knock someones jaw if a broke nigga spit about spending it all, while spitting the gems that you splurge to put around your neck, so save that to pay back all your loans and debts.

Wow. Thats all I can say. You need to rewind the track to hear how nice these emcees are. And Knos production is top-notch, with insistent drums and bass that make you feel as if youve just stepped onto a battlefield. And you know whats funny? Since When is not even the best track. On Nothing to Give, Knos supply of thumping piano keys and looping vocals allow Natti and Deacon to shine light on inner-city struggles, the story that MTV wont show because its too busy picking out Jessicas shoes. Definitely one of my favorite tracks on the albums. America Loves Gangsters bangs, with Deacon and Natti rhyming about our cultures obsession with violence.

While most of the songs are powerful, some songs stick out from the rest. Hourglass stands as one of the albums strongest cuts, as the flutes create an eerie atmosphere for Deacon, who asks for fate to send caress and a face that I can feel/ with weight from heavy breasts, an embrace that make me chill. This track is just oozing with poetry. I cant say enough about this track.

Cee-Lo, Tonedeff and Immortal Technique bless Caved In, The Gates, and Never Know Why respectively. While all the guests spit stellar verses, they dont outshine Deacon or Natti. This is a good thing, as today more emcees rely on guest appearances to save their albums from mediocrity. After spending so much time behind the boards, Kno finally joins Deacon and Natti on Brain Cell, (which samples Inspectah Decks vocals from Wu-Tangs hit, C.R.E.A.M.) where they all spit chilling tales of troubled childhoods.

I cannot find one good reason why you shouldnt buy this album. Dope production? Check. Lyricism? Double-check. What more do you want? As you approach The Light, you will want to press rewind and relive the entire journey again. This is crunk music for the thinking audience. A Piece of Strange, indeed.

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