It's very hard to keep my attention with a lot of hip-hop these days. It's easy to lose interest after a few listens if I’ve managed give it another spin in the first place. Changing that situation is definitely this latest release from the Arsonists, like most hip hop albums these days it is jam packed with tracks, 21 in fact but you’ll be paralyzed if you think you’ll be hitting that skip button.
I’m not gonna give you a lesson on these guys history because you should at least know something about them or at least have copped one verse in the past. These guys are more than emcees, D-Stroy, Freestyle, Swel, Jise and Q-Unique are entertainers as well by using impressions and sound effects on this LP. Doing British Accents is one of their favorites. The fact that they are underground emcees doesn’t influence my opinion in any way here (yeah like I have to justify that!) it’s the fact they have created a hip hop album that will be looked upon as one of 1999’s greatest.
From the Jump off things aren’t amazing, we’re hit with a nice intro, tight beat and some cutting up of Mobb deep, Krs and their own vocal samples. But when ‘Backdraft’ kicks in its just a little monotonous and not as interesting as what’s about to come. ‘Shit ain’t sweet’ would have served as a better intro, as it’s a good way to build up the pace but please don’t think I am knocking ‘Backdraft’ in any way as its still looking down on average tracks and laughing. While we are on the subject of humor, you can’t help but find the intro to ‘Pyromaniax’ funny as fuck!!!, some cartoonish kid calls out ‘Muh Muh Monkey, where you at monkey?’ which is followed by some manic gorilla sounds, while its crazy its also disturbing at the same time. The actual track is also Cartoonish as you’ve already heard it in the past (You have haven’t you?), and really bouncy standing out as something a lil different as each emcee just rocks the mic like its second nature.
‘Underground Vandal’ is where we find the pace really building as they aim to represent the ‘4 elements of hip hop’ vocally. Over a raw rolling drumbeat the names of underground emcees we all know and love are taken and used cleverly in the verses, some ill scratching accompanies the tracks final moments to round off perfection. ‘Blaze’ is also amazing, you’d think that using the classical tones of ‘War of the worlds’ sample is corny or gimmicky seeing as that little fucker A+ has been doing the classic sample thing. The energy and ruggedness of the beat changes any preconceptions you may have that this is gonna be shit. They don’t rely on the sample to bring it to life; they are really going for broke here as each emcee barely takes a breath in delivering airtight verses. ‘Venomz’ has been around for a while where they deal with the back stabbers they have to encounter, still as nice and fresh as when I first heard it.
‘LT Worf and Chewbacca’ should satisfy all the sci-fi freaks out there, although the title has no real relevance to the actual track which is way to short, they freak some bugged out beats and verses. ‘Shaboing’ has you amped from the beginning, you know this track is a sure shot with the opening lines ‘Is you a rapper or an emcee/ What do you consider/ can you handle the microphone correct or constant bullshitter/ Man you couldn’t win if KRS was by your side/ if Rakim had your back and Tip and Phife was in your tribe’, these guys are quietly confident. D-Stroy steals the show with his Sticky fingaz impersonation and the use of UPN in his verse to comic effect.
‘Ryme time travel’ has them imitating the British accent again for the intro as Q-Unique is transported through the 3 decades of hip-hop. For 1979 some block party shit is used perfectly add to this his vocals are muffled in the same way like this was actually made back in the day. ’88 is represented with some shit that I can only compare to classic Ice-T beats, arrgggh this is just getting better and better. I don’t think 99 was represented too well but its still tight lyrically, wish it had a nicer beat. ‘Live to tell’ comes in straight after and by this time I’ve got the biggest grin on my face as they show they ain’t just battle emcees but can actually tell a story or two. ‘Lunchroom/Shut the f*@!’ is more than worthy of a mention if only for the fact that its simplicity is original and amusing. The classic lunchroom battling is brought into effect including the banging on the table as a beat and vocal noises for loops. The 2 emcees go back and forth at each other complete with cheering from their lunchtime ‘audience’.
I’m not sure of the purpose of ‘D stubbed words’ but D-Stroy has a lil spoken word skit which is real interesting as if this guy ain’t under the influence of any drug on here he’s in real need of a strait jacket. The animal noises are also weird as we get everything from a dolphin to a sheep making appearances in the background. There is no danger of falling asleep when this is playing, trust me. The current B side to ‘Pyromaniax’ closes the show on a real high, ‘In your town’ is more of the goodness we all know and love.
Don’t go looking for any low points because there's not many, in fact there's only one or 2 tracks that are not up there in the ‘Fuck that is ill!!’ category but they are more than listenable.
The essence and reality of the Underground and hip-hop has never been captured so effectively and performed with such energy; the Arsonists are truly gifted ones.