It is Private Militant’s luck that his record is being covered by someone who has just spent three cold, uneventful weeks with the armed forces of his own – thankfully neutral – nation. Ironically, your reviewer was part of a unit whose job it was to make US (and other) diplomats feel safe at the European UN site of Geneva. Something tells me that this is not the kind of engagement Pvt Militant would consider to be part of his mission in life. Not with the background of being loosely affiliated with Public Enemy. One might even go as far as to speculate that Pvt Militant’s guerilla stance might make him suspect to someone who has to secure a US official’s safety.

Being no stranger to camouflage and firearms since 1993, I tend to look at the legions of ‘hood soldiers’ that populate urban music with slight bemusement. At the same time I realize that many of these self-proclaimed soldiers are likely to get into much dangerous situations at a young age than this thirtysomething soldier ever will. Still, it sure felt strange listening to Destiny’s Child exclaim “I need a soldier!” while being transported to your next assignment in the middle of the night, your hand gripping an automatic rifle, a 20-pound bullet-proof vest weighing heavy on your shoulders. That said, I appreciate the fact that Pvt Militant is not your typical fashion doll parading on the catwalk that is MTV, as described by Destiny’s Child as “them boys that be in them ‘Lacs leanin’ / open they mouth, they grill gleamin’.”

While it may look like Sdt Jost and Pvt Militant are antipodes, any rapper who makes music in the tradition of Chuck D and company has my sympathy. Unfortunately, Militant’s debut album “One Man Against Many” mirrors the artistic downfall of his idols. Back in the day, Public Enemy and their famed production team Bomb Squad inspired and mentored unique acts like Son of Bazerk and Sista Souljah, today, drained of all creative influence, they can be blamed for amateurish records like this one. Pvt Militant is a bedroom version of Chuck D, his strained, gruff vocals barking over unfinished tracks that are littered with irritating adlibs. With some goodwill, you can call his stumbling staccato a flow, but generallly The Impossebulls member is coming off like a rapper who is self-conscious about his lack of flow and does what little he can not to embarrass himself completely. In the liner notes, he admits to not being “the baddest person to ever touch a microphone.” But it’s an insight ruined by his reasoning on “No 1 Understands Me” that “you can’t make MC’s like this, you have to be born like this.” If Pvt Militant would realize that MC’s are not born but made, he might have spent some very necessary time honing his skills.

This is all the more unfortunate as Pvt Militant possesses the right attitude and the veteran flair to get his positive message across. “Put the Gunz Down” is a grassroots call for gun control, and while he doesn’t hit you with the most urgent rhetoric, he mimicks the early nineties Chuck D flow over the “Apocalypse ’91”-inspired beat well. The title track is a biographical acccount with hints of Houston’s Scarface. “They Wanna Kill Me!” finally is the kind of common sense/ordinary people approach that rap so often lacks these days:

“It all started when I was born and raised up
Testin’ teachers so they knew I had a set of nuts
Not the one for false teachin’, that American Dream
has been a nightmare for most, so it seems
They try to trick us and play us through the media
like we just got off of the little bus
Trappin’ us in an illusion, confusion
Believe in everything we see, that’s dumb
Like platinum watches, swimming pools and pretty girls
That shit is fake, it doesn’t exist in the real world
What about washing clothes, cuttin’ grass or doin’ dishes
or puttin’ up with these stupid-ass bitches?
Get in tune with who you are
and shine like the North Star
although you summon the Greatness in the East
Strive for peace, don’t be manipulated by the beast
in human form, I’m talkin’ ’bout the government
These bitches owe us and haven’t given us one red cent
Fuck bein’ stopped by impedients
You can make it with the right ingredients
Like real power time is now, this very hour
Be a man or a woman, not a fuckin’ coward
So go for what the heart desires, don’t change up
Even little drops will fill a bucket up”

Intellectually and poetically, he’s nowhere near Chuck D’s stature, but as long as he’s audible and manages to master some type of flow, Pvt Militant is quite okay. Too bad this is rarely the case as either his voice is buried in the mix, or his performance is devoid of a clear diction. Most verses here sound like they were done in one take and have been cluttered with a whole bunch of adlibs and double-takes to achieve a more professional sound, only to result in the opposite. Musically, most efforts are ruined by the unprofessional mixing/mastering, but C-Doc’s “War Tyme” gets props for its more-intricated-than-usual drum programming while “Come On Baby” and “It’s 4 U” try to woo you with softly touched keys (the latter almost ruined by some inappropriate moans). You’ll be glad that “Unpredictable” is just a skit, while Tom D’s (of Hungary’s PluSide crew) “Battle of the Soul” could have lasted a little bit longer.

The fact remains that Pvt Militant’s debut should have been overseen by professionals. The archaic “Flint Hop” will have you wanting to call Flint’s legendary MC Breed to please show these people how it’s properly done. “U Get Me Hot” is one of the most offensive joints I heard in a while, not because of any foul language but because it’s just a terribly wack track. It makes you even welcome the 2Pac-isms on “Not a Lyric Is Wasted.”

I had my hopes up fairly high when I first heard Pvt Militant proclaim, “This is a call to order / within the States and across the waters / The day and age of the dumbed-down rap is over.” I gladly took notice of the many Public Enemy snippets incorporated into the music. I was willing to acknowledge that Pvt Militant has a reflective, introspective side. But in the end I had to realize that “One Man Against Many” is just badly executed hip-hop, no matter how good the intentions.

Pvt Militant :: One Man Against Many