If you want a job done right, do it yourself. Just ask East Palo Alto rappers Mac and A.K. The twin brothers made a splash in 1996 with their debut EP, “Westbound (For Riders Only).” They were briefly signed to Tommy Boy, but soon realized that they were better off on their own, and have released two albums on their own label, E & K Music. “Legendary” is their third release, and not only is it on their label, but label co-owner Mac P handles production on all twenty tracks.
The result is an album that is much more cohesive than your average rap record full of tracks cobbled together from ten different producers. Mac P uses a mixture of keys, drum machines, and live instruments to create solid West Coast funk of the same pedigree as E-40’s early work or Dr. Dre’s later material. The production sounds slicker and smoother than on Mac and A.K.’s previous albums, and has none of the amateurish quality that often plagues self-released music. Mac and A.K. are experienced players who have been around for a while, and it shows in their confident, laid back beats and their equally confident, laid back rhymes. They spit lines effortlessly, as if they didn’t even need to think about it. “Grindin'” exemplifies their style:
“I’m from a small town where they grind it out
If you a hustler ain’t hard for you to find it out
On the block all day til the lights is out
Hit the studio and tell you what the life’s about
We go hard or go home
Hungry grimey out the trunks
But fuck labels trying to sign us cuz Mac the boss
Known throughout the state
As a grimey go getter out the Golden Gate
AKA the Yay, boy, EPA’s finest
We don’t need no niggas to cosign us”
“Since I’m a g I’m gonna lean on back
The whole team on the stacks
With bowling ball green on the ‘llacs
I bet you never seen more stacks
Cuz when I be on tracks you can call me the king of rap
These other dudes must be on crack
Saying the Bay is dead
You niggas need to ease on back”
The boys aren’t going to win any awards for originality, and they aren’t going to steal any sales from Talib Kweli or Common. Mac and A.K.’s idea of enlightenment is drinking Belvedere. They stick to the tried and true hip hop cliches of money, women, partying, and capping haters. Titles like “Git Money”, “On My Grind”, “Grind Time”, “Chedda Chasin”, and “We Got Swagger” give you a good idea about where they are coming from. They round out the disc with a few party starters (“Make It Hot”, “Do That”), a few warnings to haters (“You Ain’t Heard”, “You Don’t Want It”), and the obligatory regional shout outs (“East Meets West”, “California”, “Where U From”).
Much to their credit, the twins don’t jump on the hyphy bandwagon, and avoid the bugged out, high-energy sound that is all over the Bay Area. Instead, they look to the roots of NorCal hip hop, and their sound is firmly rooted in the mobb music tradition. Think Messy Marv rather than Mistah F.A.B. I admire hyphy, and the movement has produced some great singles, but I much prefer the menacing funk of “Legendary” to the MDMA-and-Redbull spazz that epitomizes hyphy.
Despite the shallow subject matter, I couldn’t help but enjoy “Legendary”. The boys do their thing well, and don’t pretend to be something they are not. This may not be the most spiritually fulfilling record ever made, but it’s a hell of a good time. There are thousands of artists who do this same kind of DIY street rap, but not that many who do it as well as Mac and A.K.