I know nothing about Backwoodz Studioz and their roster of artists. Off their name alone I thought I’d be listening to a group of hungry southern rappers. Instead Backwoodz Studioz consists of East Coast rappers that have an affiliation with underground favorites like MF Doom and apparently have a solid fan base that’s been looking forward to a release of any sort from the label. “Target Practice” serves the dual purpose of appeasing fans and introducing their artists to potential newcomers as it consists of 21 songs with contributions from all their artists. It’s almost something you’d expect as pure promo material to be handed out at shows, but with plenty of tracks you’ll be sure to feel you got your money’s worth.
It’s hard to find a place to start as there are 21 tracks on this CD and more than 21 rappers and almost 21 producers. If Backwoodz Studioz has such a hefty roster already they either all really suck or they’re destined for big things and in their case I think they do have a bright future. Axis 360 drops a super jazzy sample on “City of Hereos” that makes you feel you’re in an old B&W detective movie. Super Chron Flight Brothers and Baron (of Red Clay) suffer from names that are almost too original, but their rhymes are dope as they talk about the city they call home. Invizibl Men drop nothing but battle-style raps on the appropriately titled “Jimmy Swagger” but don’t really show what they’re capable of since the track lacks focus. Hassan Chop of MF Doom fame drops the beat for Mark Spekt’s “Armor Truck Rap” and shows he’s been taking notes from his famous mentor. The track is nothing amazing, but its thumping beat and guitar loop hold it down. Mark Spekt uses the track to drop a constant barrage of battle raps. At this point the only weak part about this release is the fact that a lot of the tracks amount to the same thing. Overall, regardless of the name of the rapper, the songs all end up being battle-rhyme tracks. They aren’t bad battle raps, but they do little to differentiate artists and to give us a true idea of what these guys can do.
The Reavers do change things up on “Shadows (Remix)” as they reflect on life, but it seems that is the only other category found on this CD. Either it’s a battle rap or a track bringing to light problems in the inner city. Thankfully though, The Reavers, Mark Spekt, Invizibl Men and the rest of the Backwoodz Studioz family is talented enough to get away with somewhat monotonous subject matter. The beats are also all on point, leaning towards the soulful side. At one point, Producer EL flips the Oompa Loompa song for a beat. At first thought the idea seems like it’d be destined for utter failure but it actually holds up as Hi-Coup rides the track well. The only real weak track is Megalon’s “Bed-Stuy” as he tries to spit over the Three Six Mafia’s “Stay High” and can’t hang with the high speed flow he adapts.
“Target Practice” is a mixed offering but it definitely shows plenty of potential for Backwoodz Studioz. It’s a blend of new school underground rap and rugged east coast hip-hop. Like their underground counterparts, most of the acts on the label are an acquired taste and will probably not make a universal splash in the game, but they still have plenty of talent to get a solid audience. “Target Practice” itself does sound disjointed as an album, but the title implies a hit and miss approach. Given that the label seems to have a close relationship with its fan base, this album looks to be a way of testing the water and in that scenario it does what it sets out to do. If you’re unfamiliar with Backwoodz Studioz there’s not better place to start than here and with such a mixed bag you’re sure to find at least a few artists that will grab your interest.