In the late 90’s several artists started to breathe new life into the flailing Boston underground scene, from Mr. Lif to Akrobatik and back around to 7L and Esoteric, but as those respectable artists seem to dissipate to some degree it seems that there is a possibility that this scene will reach a point of turmoil. The intentions of the Pangea Pham, comprised of emcees; Jug, Cube Ref, Tystormz, Session and Diogenes, is to revive Massachusetts rap but the posse album often lacks the raw feeling of the region defining releases from nearly a decade ago.
Acuta Records is relying heavily on these guys. The entire camp’s stable is tied up on this crucial release that will make or break them. In theory it is an understandable choice, then, to format the album in a way that each emcee gets a chance to create their own image by offering up 4 solo tracks each, except for Session who goes at it for just 3 cuts. However, Session is the sole producer on the disc and he gets to show his diversity on the boards. The best way to break down the release is on an emcee basis because they each get an equal opportunity to impress.
Jug gets the jump-off rights with the bell-ringing “Why We Out There”. The introduction is a forgettable affair. Jug proves to be a pretty standard rapper, with a slightly deep and raspy voice which is fitting for his lyrics that are generally rather sexualized in nature. “Show Me Something,” is an attempt at a club joint with the trite chorus a la Mystikal, “Shake somethin’ girl, show me what you workin’ with” repeated. Which is complimented by some grunt inducing bars like, “I gotta get a piece, gotta have it/You makin’ me mad, like Dagnabbit!” “Come Closer” follows the same tired path later on in the LP.
Luckily Tystormz shows a little bit more diversity with the juxtaposition of tracks like “Slide” and “Drinks On Me”. Ty has a less abrasive voice than Jug and he seems to rap with more venom. The synth heavy explosion that is “Drinks On Me” is one of the most accessible club-esqe song on the album that sounds like something Nitty might contruct behind the boards. Though, that is not to say that he is without some questionable lines like, “Everything was in her mouth like she was one year(s) old.” These instances nearly ruin the experience completely.
Diogenes is probably the best of the pack. He seems to have a different approach to the album completely. “Part of My Heart” is a symphonic, jazzy number that Lupe Fiasco would comfortably lace. He notes at the beginning of the track, “What I wanna do now is get rid of all that watered down stuff you hear on the radio,” but maybe he should get that message to his brethren of Acuta Records who seem to fixated by the type of music that he is attacking. Genes proves his worth by making his rhymes come off more effortlessly and less rigorously structured.
“Bunny Slope” by Cube Ref proves that if Diogenes is at the top of the Acuta food chain then he is the bottom feeder. The beat is at least a creative design by Session as it features some bongo drums in the background and a snake charmer flute. He slows his flow down on “Peel It Off”, which only puts the focal point on the feeble BET’s Uncut level of verbiage.
Finally, the producer gets some work in behind the mic, but he really belongs in his comfort zone. “All Around the World” shows that he saved one of his most genuine, epic beats for himself, whereas, “Beats Are #1” and especially “Jack Hammer” show that he has trouble finding his timing on his own loops. Still “Beats Are #1” is an enjoyable self-appreciative effort.
There you have it, five emcees, but not one of them will blow you away, nor stir up demand for a solo venture. They range in a class of poor to mediocre and the album too often finds itself saturated with it’s own faux-party style. It seems that the collective would have been better off complimenting each other in a trade off type of manner, seeing that they lack the tools to carry entire tracks by themselves. In-house producer Session certainly brings a lot of variety to the plate in terms of instrumentation–some of it just does not work though. The purpose of the album from a thematic standpoint is to present a soundtrack to the summer. When thinking of such a creation one conjures thoughts of a breezy, laid back, kind of charm. The Pangea Project is mostly for the clubs, strip clubs.
Back in the 90’s when emcees from Boston were talking real talk there was a hint of regional renaissance. Mr Lif, Akrobatik, Krumbsnatcha, 7L and Esoteric all had the area on lockdown. Now, they’re all doing their thing still but it lacks the magic of when there was seemingly and explosion of formidable rap artists breeding up in the Northeast. The feeling used to be raw. The Pangea Project released by the Pangea Pham is, in essence, the antithesis of the type of underground treaded in Boston before them, which is surprising seeing that they have shared the stage with Lif himself, amongst others that care more deeply about the music. If you want to be encouraged by new Massachusetts rap music, go pick up some Termanology and spare other disappointments.