All emcees change, but not all improve. As Canibus (Sankofa's favorite MC to reference, for better or worse) and his fall from glory has lately proven, four small years can make all the difference. 'Obese America' works off that principle to showcase guest verses, drops and remixes from 98-01 in the career of erehwoN naM. Though the format has its flaws, 'Obese America' succeeds at being a great introduction for Sankofa newbies or a recap for his fans.
Where better to start than the first song Sank ever recorded? Kashal-Tee's "Emasculation," presented here in remixed form, shows an emcee dope from the start, "since Fidel Castro misplaced his razor blade." He's a little punchline heavy here compared to his later work, but the execution is superlative enough to excuse any niggling points. Kashal-Tee stands toe-to-toe with his buddy here, and the song turns out great. The solo tracks that follow-up, "Soylent I'd Banded" and "ought'a graf" follow in the same mould, characterizing Sankofa as a great battle/bragging emcee, with a ton of potential.
Due to the nature of this release (guest verses and drops predominate) it is the energetic and accessible Sankofa which prevails, in stark contrast to last year's more introverted WCC album. The greatest example of this, "Lep106," was around as "beatjackolantern2" a couple of years ago, but Leprechaun's remix makes it even better than the RAM Squad track did. Outrhyming Germaine Propane by six measures, this song along shows why Sankofa's name should pop up among the best rappers out these days. "beatjackolantern3," the follow-up with iCONtheMicKing, is a little under whelming, but its hard to argue with the "Soul on Ice remix" beat underneath, even when it turns up again on "freeze" (though we could've done without "Back It Up" for one of the bonus tracks).
When Sankofa tries more personal material it generally works, but these songs don't fit as well in this context. The two remixes from his SA-2 EP, "bankshot" and "Wimmera St," both benefit greatly from the Suspended Animators' wonderful production, though the emcee is a little less animated on these tracks. His occasional subtlety is also present on the Cronenberg-inspired "Videodrome," which has a nice beat from 2Sick. However, these songs are the minority and fit a little awkwardly with the lighter-hearted material. The other major inconsistency on underground compilation projects, of sound quality, also rears its ugly head, and the disc does suffer for it.
Yet much of the music and the rhyming is exemplary enough to negate these flaws. 'Obese America' is a fine compression of most of Sankofa's charms into a single release, and whatever your experience with him is it'd be a valid addition to your collection.