Cali Agents - How The West Was One      
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written by Philip Oliver    
Remember when Method Man and Redman got together to make an album? They compliment each other so was bound to happen right? Well the same goes for Planet Asia and Rasco. If you don’t know or just ain’t been paying attention these 2 left coast emcees have been working back and forth on each others projects, Planet Asia contributing to Rasco’s first LP and last years ‘The Birth EP’ (As well as production, check the excellent ‘Blood Brothers’) and Rasco has been returning the favor. If you still ain’t heard either then your on the wrong website but if your familiar with Rasco & Planet Asia then read on. The 2 emcees have collaborated for an album that along with J5 and Dilated will officially put the West on the map for dope underground hip hop this Summer.

The intro to this album is quite amusing, usually something that pisses you off with skits is that you can only listen to 'em once or twice. It begins with the owner of Explicit Exploited Entertainment discussing with his intern about some black music making money for the label, the impressions are done well and trust me you’ll laugh at how he fucks things up. We’re then thrown straight into the title track which showcases what Rasco and Asia are about and the mission they are about to undertake over one hell of a thumping piano loop.

Its hard to pick any single highlights on this album because there are so many, the middle section of the album is flooded with super quality tracks. This includes the almost flawless ‘Up close and personal’ with Chuck Taylor (who brings a variety in vocals to this track). The horn and drum kick arrangement is perfect and the intensity of the track grows at the right point when a verse is begun. Rasco benefits from this as he begins his verse promising, ‘I get inside your mind / shatter the spine to the spleen / we still out making the green’ but the rest of the verse sounds like its coming off the top of his head which don’t work here.

‘This is my life’ and ‘Faces of death’ are yet more prime examples of the brilliance displayed here. The former so good I had it on repeat for about half an hour. ‘Faces of death’ was one of the first tracks I heard from the album and seems to sum up the feel of this album even adopting a ‘Western Saloon’ feel with its guitar lick as Asia opens with ‘Uncut, this be the realest feeling / inner visions of victory it got my squad big willing / it might be Planet Asia, something meant to be / eventually 500,000 fans through MP3’ now how well executed is that?

It’s a fact that most albums today are usually let down by production but not here. Some of the tracks are the grittiest but beautiful sonic adventures I have heard since ‘Cuban Linx’ came out. The production is also pretty varied moving from a premier clone on ‘Crash the boards’ to the haunting operatic chords of ‘This is my life’.

Overall this is an excellent album but its Rasco’s lyrical content that stops this from progressing to a perfect 10. That’s not a dig at Rasco though as his flow, voice and delivery more than make up for any pitfalls he has in content. Its really not that bad but I’ve heard him come better before and alongside Asia it somehow seems inadequate. Also just one track sounds out of place, yeah that’s right one track, that’s ‘Real talk’ as it sounds almost like some jiggy shit with some female repeating the hook with Rasco and its bad bass line rumblings and xylophone attack.

Despite this ‘How the west was won’ will go down as one of the best albums of 2000.

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