Sophomore slumps truly seem to curse emcees who put out extremely dope debut LP's. I first heard Afu-Ra on Jeru The Damaja's albums but he never impressed me. Afu-Ra's debut; "The Body Of The Life Force" was a surprisingly impressive LP with an incredible range of guests (GZA, Cocoa Brovaz, Ky-Mani Marley, etc) and top-notch production from Premier, True Master and Muggs. I was a big fan of quite a few of the album's tracks. Naturally, many people who loved his debut were looking forward to his sophomore LP. "Life Force Radio" is a decent follow-up but is no where near as satisfying as his debut.
Production was a driving force in his debut, but on "Life Force Radio", Premier only produces two songs (arguably two of the best). "Lyrical Monster" is truly incredible and Afu's delivery is not only hungry but confident and wise. "Blvd." featuring Guru on the hook is also very well done but doesn't have the same pounding energy as "Lyrical Monster."
Besides the two Premier produced tracks, there are some incredible songs which make this LP very enjoyable. "Dangerous Language" featuring Rza (produced by True Master) is a wild and rowdy track that would make any Wu-Tang fan proud. "Crossfire" with M.O.P. (produced by Eric S.) is another incredibly energetic track uses the very successful M.O.P. collaboration formula. Jah Dan Of Black Hearted Scavengers (which some may know from his work with Duckdown Records) lends some reggae vocals to the Ayatollah produced "Think Before You ". This is another rap/reggae track that's done well. "Stick Up" with Big Daddy Kane (produced by Curt Cazal) is a surprising and vigorous track that helps kick the album off after the somewhat generic-jazz of the LP's opener track "Scatman". "Hip-Hop" produced by Easy Moe Bee is a decent call-response track that has a rock-star vibe to it, an extremely vigorous track that will get the listener amped.
A surprising turn on the album is the experimental "Aural Fixation" featuring the Human Orchestra. The beat-box driven song is refreshing and adds to the albums variety. For anyone who liked Scratch's album, you're sure to dig this track.
On "Life Force Radio", Afu-Ra seems to be trying to duplicate the formula of his first album but with less guests and less top-notch production. (I would not be surprised if it was a question of $'s) Both album's have a reggae track. Both have Wu-tang collaborations. Both have production by Premier, and both have tracks with M.O.P. The phrase "Life Force" is even used again in the title. The problem with "Life Force Radio" is that feels like it is a thinner version of his debut.
Where "Caliente" was the only song on "Body Of The Life Force" with a sung chorus, R&B hooks almost make up ¼ of "Life Force Radio". The songs "Miss You and "Open" have decent beats and decent verses but do not uplift or inspire in anyway. Teena Marie's hook on the Domingo-produced "Open" is almost so over-done that I was surprised that I was listening to the same album. "Miss You", produced by Needles and featuring Alana Da Fonseca, is a mellow but somewhat stale track. "Readjustment", produced by Easy Moe Bee, is a mellow track that is well done due to the chemistry and astute positive sentiments. Q's hook is intelligent as he sings about changing and rearranging your life.
Besides the R&B tracks, there a couple of odd songs that mildly drag the LP down in a weird way. They're not bad songs but they are not mind-blowing in anyway. The generic-jazz of "Scatman" opens the album. It's not a bad song but it should not have set things off. "Sacred Wars" featuring Don Pharmazhane & The Blob attempts to be an anthem, but chugs away and becomes a filler track.
Afu-Ra's lyrics and voice may get on people's nerves but his flow and his clever rhymes drive the songs. He is not a storytelling emcee. He is mainly a battle emcee who attempts to put his heart into his lyrics. "1,2,3", produced by Curt Cazal, is a good example of his attempt of reciting heartfelt lyrics. He actually sings the hook asking the question, "Who loves you better? Your mother, wife or daughter?" The song is basically an ode to women but it maintains the hip-hop attitude.
Overall, Afu-Ra did give us a decent sophomore album but it has failed to reach the expectations of the fans who loved his debut. This is mainly because of the lack of well-respected and well-known guests and the lack of dope production.