An artist can draw inspiration for their music through a variety of means; the most successful of these are personal experiences and real life situations. Producer Chris Stylez Tha Shadow Figure draws on such experiences to fuel his music. The Utica, New York resident is a man of a rough past and a bright future. The struggles and hardships seen throughout his life are transparent through his production, which displays that gritty, rough edge similar to his up bringing.
Chris Stylez made his debut to the Hip-Hop world in 2000 with a small EP, which was sold on Mp3.com, after a dealing with Hexagon Records went sour. Since then Chris has been hard at work laying down tracks for artists such as Elias and trying to get his label UndaDogz Entertainment off the ground. His sophomore release "Morbid Curiosity II" is a group soundtrack of sorts, mixing Chris Stylez production with his UndaDogz Crew among other emcees.
The strong point of 'Morbid Curiosity" is of course it's production. Chris Stylez, while not widely known, is a good up and coming producer. He has a distinct style; dark and dreary at times, but powerful. With a large variety of emcee's and styles featured throughout "Morbid Curiosity", Chris manages to keep the production varied and focused to each emcee's distinct flavor. His finest moments come from the more hard-core sounds of "Andrometer" featuring Upwerd Avalanche, "148 Headz In A Duffel Bag" featuring Omniscient and "ABG" featuring Quest. However, Chris Stylez really shines with tracks such as "Friends Are The Ties That Die" featuring Strata G, "Definition Of Tragic" featuring Tragic and "Love This" featuring MD. It's on these tracks where Chris shows his variety in his production and his ability to make good songs not just records. The "Definition of Tragic" is one of the more personal, insightful experiences on the album. Tragic lets the listener know about his life and why they call him Tragic. "I feel like a villain, who wakes up each day trying to find something that's missing, I stopped going to church so maybe its religion and I'm just one of Satan's helpless victims". "Friends Are The Ties That Die" by Strata G is the most deep and insightful out of all the tracks and is indeed one of the album's true gems. Chris shows that his production can take on more than a hard-core feel. Combining a beautiful piano loop with soulful melody, the track is something that most producers and emcees cannot pull off these days, putting together a track with substance, soul and emotion. Both "Friends Are The Ties That Die" & "The Definition Of Tragic" are nice changes of pace, which are always a key ingredient to any album.
While Chris manages to garner most of the accolades with his production, fellow UndaDog Elias manages to steal the spotlight on more than one occasion. Probably the best emcee featured on "Morbid Curiosity", Elias captures a unique sense of chemistry with Chris behind the boards. "Bang To This Part 2" featuring Elias is a powerful track with a haunting production effort. Elias presents a good combination of hard core yet intelligent lyricism, along with some solid mic presence. Along with Divinity, Fine Vinyl Theory and Mo Greenz (who rips the track), Elias & Chris put forth another gem with the album's true highlight "Penmanship". Chris Stylez out does himself with "Penmanship", a straight b-boy anthem featuring intense hunger from the emcees featured, along a nice scratched in sample for the hook, which adds a new dimension to the track itself.
While most of "Morbid Curiosity II" is satisfying, there are some problems plaguing the album. The most significant is the abundant amount of emcees featured on the album. With almost 15 plus emcees featuring on the album, it is hard to get a good feel of the album right away. It may take you some time to get acquainted with the vast variety of styles and flavor featured on the album. While for the most part this variety works well, at times the emcees don't fit the mold Chris Stylez portrays on the album such as the awful "Phone Sects" featuring B. Ware The Siniq and the lackluster "Hiphopbasshead" by Omniscient. "Billboard Babylon" featuring Lincoln Hayes, "Morbid Freestyle" by ParanormL Sickayatrist and the surprisingly weak production of "Addiction" featuring Ghetalion which features an awkward vocal sample by Chris Stylez, are also disappointing. The other cause for concern is the album's length, which runs a bit too long. With 21 tracks, the album tends to drag at times, especially if you are not familiar with the emcees. If Chris had cut the album down to 12 or 14 tracks and left out the irrelevant interludes, "Morbid Curiosity" would have turned out more complete and consistent. Another route Chris Stylez may think of going is that which RJD2 went with "Deadringer". While the album does include two instrumentals "Drowning In The Rain" & "After War Comes Sorrow", a better mix of instrumental and vocal tracks would capitalize on Chris's own production and bring him to the forefront. In the end, the over abundant amount of tracks and emcees featured on the album leave "Morbid Curiosity" a good album but inconsistent.
Sometimes you can just tell when an artist or producer has something going, which is the case with Chris Stylez on "Morbid Curiosity II". Chris's production is that of a winning mold but with a different twist. It's good to see a producer come out with a distinct style, not following a popular trend. While it has its flaws, I suggest everybody go out and give "Morbid Curiosity II" a listen. Chris Stylez has a lot of talent behind the boards and as he continues to grow and expand as a producer, his albums should do the same. For more information on Chris Stylez and the UndaDogz visit http://artists.iuma.com/artids/746/74676/ and for album purchases make sure you check out http://www.cdbaby.com/cstylez