The Masterminds - The Underground Railroad  
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written by Philip Oliver    
If you ain’t heard of the Masterminds before then you should know this is their 3rd album and as declared by Mr Khaliyl on this album they ‘Got Joints.’ I remember their last 12" last year for ‘Déjà Vu’ and one thing stood out, they were pretty versatile. Now this group not only handles things lyrically but they manage to come through beat wise too.

The guests are what really stand out on this album and none could really stand against the all-star line up that is ‘Seven.’ Just in case you ain’t heard this track floating around already it features J-Treds, El-Pee, Mr Complex (who sounds more like Monch than ever on here), Shabaam Sahdeeq and my personal favorite, J-Live. This track is pretty simplistic with a well know drum pattern but quirky backdrop for each emcee to pass the lyrical baton, and its done well, just check how El Pee is given the run up. Each emcee represents well and with each listen you realize its pure brilliance.

Mr Khaliyl AKA Mr Mann from Da Bush Babees appears on 2 back to back tracks and both are among the livest cuts here. ‘Bring it Back’ is some hyper funked out track that just had my head in motion, you're next hit by the dark ‘Joints 2000’. Again Mr Khaliyl steps up on the hook and the closing verse where he kills it, kinda outshining the Masterminds, I mean they are good emcees but tend to be shadowed by who they get to guest on their tracks. This can be said again for the L-Fudge blessed ‘OneTwoThree’, again simplistic it may be but brilliance also shines through with its hypnotizing beats and B-Boy lyrical onslaught.

The Masterminds are strongest when they have tracks to themselves, take ‘2025’ where a scenario is vividly described about how hip hop is outlawed in that year. This futuristic tales puts hip hop in a historic context as ‘Bambaatas Legacy’ is thought of and how its illegal to be a dope emcee (the way things are going in hip hop now this could end up true). Elsewhere they enjoy the limelight with the banging opener that is ‘Liberty’ and the follower that is ‘Shellshocked,’ again simplicity with some piercing strings makes this one of the albums early highlights. ‘Memories’ closes the album on a mellow vibe as we are drifting back into their personal lives, along with this and ‘Bring it Back’ this group firmly believes the righteous ethics that you cannot go anywhere without giving recognition to the past

This album proves the Masterminds have crafted yet another solid collection of beats and rhymes, it's definitely one of the best releases this year as I haven’t been able to go anywhere over the last month without this album. It falls short of a mark or two as not every track is perfect but about 80% of this album hits the mark every time, pick this one up or miss out.

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