10 years deep in the game is the collective group/label known as Hieroglyphic Imperium lingers on. Yet, relatively old in ‘rap years’ they continue to pick up new entities to evolve and change with the times. The newest addition to the team comes in the form of Musab, who might be a new name for many but he has made a name for himself in his home state of Minnesota alongside one of the landmark underground labels, Rhymesayers. This man that claims pimping to be his vocation under the alias Minnesota Slicks has so many images that it is hard to keep up with, but there is no doubt which one he aims to promote with the mack-tinged LP, “Slicks Box”.
The Rhymesayers namedrop should get any true hip-hop fiend interested and an explanation of his history seems to be necessary. Musab, who looks like a dead ringer for Nelly, has been around in the game for 14 years which is longer than the Oakland-based Hiero team that he rolls with now. Originally, Musab went under the rap moniker “Beyond”, but that was a short-lived but priceless stint as he was amongst genius music makers Ant, Slug and Brother Ali as part of The Headshots as the Minnesota rap scene started to bubble up like an looming volcano. The highlight of his early years in rap would be the guest spot he landed on Atmosphere’s landmark debut album “Overcast” in 1998 (which was later re-released in ’05). However, Musab wanted to move his artistic direction forward and switched to his real name for subsequent releases like the maxi-single “Actin’ Rich” and the full-length musical biography “Respect the Life” in which he promoted this steady pimpin’. Musab continues his voyage as the Southside Mack on “Slicks Box” despite outcries from those that prefer a less blunt nature.
The album kicks off with a bouncy and introspective look at his experience. Certain lyrics on the introductory joint really stand out as some of the album’s best like “I’m trying to get it right for my daughter and my son, the more you want success, the harder it will come” and “Muhammad in the night of mirage, except I’m not a prophet, just a man fighting his war.” His voice of hustle and struggle usually comes off as sincere despite previous reflections of himself.
On “Ay-Ay (Southside Accent)”, Musab sacrifices hot verses for a corny hook – it is one of the few moments in which the audience gets too much of The Slick when he states, “Because we don’t play, Ay! We like to say ‘Ay! Got niggaz runnin’ around sayin’ Ay, Ay!”. What is supposed to be an ode to his pimp style loses some of it’s steam with this, yet the funky, distorted guitar grooves coupled with a particularly nice start up verse do enough to save it from mediocrity. Sab does manage to stray from the played out subject matters of most gangster rap music. “I Won’t Die” and “Baaang” are decidedly aggressive, but surprisingly stress the music and life more than bloodshed and death. The latter is a soul-influenced anthem with clanking piano keys.
The low-key “Confessions of Mr. Slick” is the real highlight of the album as it replaces Sab’s sometimes iffy choruses with a smooth sample. More importantly, ‘Confessions’ focuses on his very specific experience as a hustler. It focuses more on how he can better himself, rather than typical narcissistic rap tracks. The album continues to surprise as the seemingly stereotypical “Kool Aid (Gettoe Juice)” unfolds with a Zeppelin sample. The beat does not hold up throughout the entire track, but it is a creative attempt nonetheless.
Musab has a pretty smooth flow and for the most part his rhymes are tightly written. He may not belong with the punch-line wordsmiths that consist of Hiero Imperium and he definitely would not sound at home with the boys from Rhymesayers. Whether a pimp or not, the man raps compelling stories over mostly solid beats and that is all that most people can ask for. In fact, there is not a single track on “Slicks Box” that absolutely needs to be removed and there are not many that will blow you away. Musab has gleaming moments that show great potential as he continues to tread his long journey in the rap game.