AZ is the type of emcee to spit something classic like his verse on “Life’s A Bitch” from Nas’s well-respected first album, Illmatic, but then make a track that lacks substance, or contains too much substance until it’s saturated with wackness. What’s strange about AZ is that he can act hardcore, but rarely does he sound good over a hard-hitting beat. His most quotable verses are over more high-treble, heavily sampled beats. Lyrically, AZ either brings some heat, or has you saying, “What the fuck is this kid talking about!?” Take “How Many Wanna” as an example, which features the unattractive Amil singing on the hook with AZ, who says some seriously stupid shit. To stray away from the rappers’ errors, let’s check out the engineering aspects of this song. In this dispicable chorus, AZ’s voice can be heard loud and clear, but you need to turn the volume up a few notches to clearly hear Amil. It looks poor on the mixer’s part, but I’m not complaining. The beat contains a nice sample, but made Amil sound like my four-year-old cousin. A theme in this album can be summed up in a line from AZ, which can be heard in this track, “I’m like the same song, never change chorus”. There’s a lot of monotony. If it weren’t for the guest appearances, this would sound as uniform as Redman’s Malpractice, heavily due to the small variety in the production.

Another serious problem really ruined a dope track: the echo on Beanie Sigel’s verse on “That’s Real”, which carries sick flows and hot lyrics from both emcees. Unfortunately, Beans sounds silly as hell with waht sounds like an echo. It makes him sound like Mr. Big from one of those Police Academy movies. There’s a huge difference in quality between AZ’s recording and Beanie’s. Maybe they weren’t recorded in the same studio, but it sounds a little strange because this ‘echo’ keeps fading in and out at different times. Nonetheless, it’s a hot track complete with some nice production and an enjoyable chorus.

For the most part, that’s all that will strike a hip-hop head as just poor music. Songs to bob your head to are found, and AZ comes through nicely on all of them, spitting over hot beats. For example, AZ flips a small topical track called “What Cha Day About?”, in which AZ outlines the different type of lives in Queens, and even shares his lifestyle with his fans. The beat is nice with some good scratches and samples. This is an example of one of those beats that just suits AZ’s voice and flow perfectly. He rocks “At Night” over a very ‘instrumental’ beat, which is better than dope. There’s nothing much to the theme of the song, but that’s not a drawback. The beat will have your head bouncing, and AZ rides it nicely. By far the best cut on the album, “Problems”, is a sample-saturated track that will create a crowd response the second the beat drops. AZ brings a hype flow over an incredible beat with a moderately fast tempo. The vocals in the chorus were sampled perfectly, everyone should applaud the producer for the entire track. It’s not a lyrical masterpiece, but it’s just too hard not to bob your head to this.

For the most part, this LP is half-and-half. Most heads will feel about half of the tracks, but they’ll definitely appreciate their favorite joints. Production is good, but a lot of the beats were a little too similar for my liking. This created somewhat of a monotonous album, along with a little variation in the lyrical content, which is its biggest setback. You may notice that AZ–and all of his featured guests–structured their verses with multisyllabic rhyming, which hopefully means that mainstream competition is going to start stepping up as far as emceeing goes. Then again it could probably mean absolutely nothing considering that Juvenile occassionally rhymes with the same structure. All in all, it’s an enjoyable album, but like most albums released this year, there’s nothing classic about it. One thing will stick in your head, though. It’s the question, “why is Nas not on this album, but instead sampled in a chorus instead?”

Reviewed By RhymeLife.Com for DaHipHopPlace.Com

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