In the beginning, there was New York rap. It quickly spread elsewhere, all the way to the west coast, where it continued to grow and profit. As hip-hop made the obligatory passage from artistic expression to commercial vehicle, newer, more intelligent rap gained popularity, once again starting in New York City. Now, as Mos Def and Common have the same commercial draw as many other, more traditional rappers, and artists from all over the country continue to gain exposure, New York struggles to feel relevant in hip-hop. This is most apparent in the underground; while Nas and Jigga duke it out on the airwaves, the most notable underground rappers hail from Minneapolis, Maine or California. NYC still has its share of talent in the pile, but being from New York is no longer anything special.
Fortunately, east coast hip-hop is set to have its best year in a minute, with Eastern Conference Records and Def Jux both doing great things for NYC. Dope label-sponsered compilations have worked for both, and Freschest Records weighs in here with their contribution, “Jabs and Cuts Vol. 1.” With the exception of two tracks by Cali-based Lexicon, all the emcees and DJ’s rep for New York.
Overall, the album is very balanced. The tracks are mostly battle rhymes, with a few token concept jams thrown in the mix. No complaints here though; Writers Guild tackle girl troubles on “Disputes,” P Pullz handle the strife of the world with “World Won’t Change” and Breez Evahflowin takes the obscure route with “Time Machine.” The battle/braggadocio jams are handled aptly by a smattering of decent emcees. Oktober, Moist Crackers and Fallen Angelz all lay down good shit in their own, different styles. JL and Johnny Cock’s beats are solid throughout and DJ Tommee’s cuts are sick (especially his work with Siah’s “Pyrite” at the end of “Time Machine.”)
While complaints about the album are few, nothing really stands out. The Stronghold crew will always be legendary for their battle skills, but Breez, Writers Guild and P-Pullz drop writtens that are pretty good at best. The Fallen Angelz crew, whose ICON the Mic King shows up on a second track also, drop battle lyrics that are too freaking complicated to be enjoyed, and would be better off being studied. While the beats are tight, only a few get serious head nods. And the running interludes about industry bullshit (which dap Tribe Called Quest with their title, “Industry Rule 4080”) are funny, but cliched. It’s not that any of this is bad, or that any of these tracks are disappointing, but “Jabs and Cuts Vol. 1” isn’t neccesarily any doper than anything else coming out of any other city… except for JAQ’s “The B-Boy Song” that is. Fuck best on the album, this may be the track of the year. Ill beat, dope, creative story rhymes about an up and coming emcee – don’t sleep on it or this compilation.