MC 13 hails from Philly as is obvious from his album title. Though The Roots don’t hold a trademark for the term “Illadelph,” their classic album “Illadelph Halflife” is sure to come to mind anytime a hip-hop head outside of Philly hears the word. Add to the mix the fact that MC 13 has worked with Black Thought and Scott Storch in the past and the fact that he dresses like Common and big expectations are set up for this album. So maybe the way MC 13 dresses is no indication of his skills, but when you see that style of dress you can’t help but to expect some “conscious” rap. Image and expectation actually play a big role in how you view this album. See, had MC 13 chosen to go for the more typical street look for his photo shoot I actually would have expected less and been a little surprised. But with the whole “bohemian” look going, I’m disappointed in what MC 13 delivers, more than if I had expected track after track of street clichÃ©s.
The first track, “Intro/ Closed Session” sets the tone for the album with a funky, guitar driven track from producers 13 and Dirty Nothing. MC 13 opens up with what amount to battle raps with lines like “mic hazardous in my hands, like chemical weapons man.” It’s nothing insanely impressive but it shows off MC 13’s smooth flow. “Get Up” features another impressive beat from 13 and Dirty North as they flip flute samples to deliver a soulful but lively track. This is where MC 13 starts disappointing just a little bit, recycling old sayings like “they say the only way out is crack or basketball.” MC 13 complements that with “fuck the cops” later in the song and bland battle rhymes. 13 and Dirty North drop the ball on “Right Back” with a loop that is semi-interesting and way too simple. MC 13 and Swaze(B) let the album fall even further with their uninspiring mix of street tales and brags. It’s not that I mind street-hop. Done right I love nothing more than some hardcore gangsta rap. But with MC 13, it seems when he goes for the street cred he does nothing more than recycle age old credos of getting money and being the biggest and baddest. This particular track is filled with threats of getting stabbed and “sending shots through your Sixer’s cap.” This track also introduces one of the inconsistencies I found with MC 13 as he seems to pronounce his name “Naci 13” despite clearly writing “MC” all over the album.
“Ill America” finds MC 13 and Bro E spitting conspiracy rhymes over a subdued beat produced by Gun. It might be done to add an effect to the track, but both rappers sound far way on this track making harder to concentrate on their lyrics. “Freak Mental” finds MC 13 spinning completely out of control with talks of having a movie chick, shooting up the place, and shouting out his “hood rich niggas.” This track showcases the main problem MC 13 has. He’s either spitting semi-conscious raps and doing a decent job of it or he’s mindlessly spewing the same old tired garbage raps found on 95% of the releases today. I would love nothing more than a rapper who could walk the fine line between street cred and uplifting music, but MC 13 is not that rapper. His uplifting moments show much promise, but when he focuses on street cred he’s nothing more than average.
The album ends with nothing noteworthy, including something that isn’t even energetic enough to be called spoken word poetry on “Eternal (Prophecy).” With an album that clocks in at less than 30 minutes, there’s maybe 10 minutes of music that is worth listening. MC 13 should consider sticking to his deeper moments on the next release. His journey’s in the street world are average at best and he does not have the personality to pull it off. The only highlight may be some of the beats cooked up by MC 13 himself (I assume he is the 13 of “13 and Dirty North”). His weaker moments might have been easier overlooked on a longer album, but as it stands there’s not much to recommend on “Illadelph Eternal.”