Back in 1996, I used to receive a catalog from a mail-order company called Point Blank Distribution that specialized in independent hip-hop. Since most of the artists they carried were of West Coast origin, I had an opportunity to become familiar with names that would gain mainstream recognition in years to come. Some of the groups I discovered were acts like The Beat Junkies, Living Legends, BoredStiff, Dilated Peoples, DJ Dr. E-Z (or DJ Drez, I never knew which name was most appropriate since I heard both titles used), Medusa and Tunnel Rats.
One thing that I always noticed about most of the West Coast acts was that the music hardly ever jumped off the cassettes and grabbed you by the stones, forcing you to pay close attention. There was definitely a premium placed on quality song construction, technical ability and an obsessive dedication to the independent grind. What the music lacked was the type of charisma and translated swagger that separates the average to slightly above average mic controller from someone who DOMINATES the microphone. The West Coast indies never seemed to possess the same levels of unbridled aggressiveness exemplified in their East Coast contemporaries such as Company Flow, Jedi Mind Tricks and Non-Phixion. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed the music and I have been supportive of the West Coast hip-hop scene every since.
Disflex6, which is composed of the lyricists Jason the Argonaut and Lazerus Jackson, fall within the parameters of the artists that I mentioned earlier. Even though the tracks do not explode through the speakers and the vocals are a bit understated, I get the feeling that I would like these guys if I met them in person and I would attend their shows, simply because they seem to possess that work ethic left coast indies are known for. This album is composed of outtakes left over from their last commercial release “Slow Burn” along with other songs the press sheet states were sitting on the hard drive, wasting space.
The first track is an intro that uses, what I believe, the hottest sample on the album. I would have loved to hear them take the loop and expand upon it with some seriously houserockin drums and battle raps.
The first actual song is “Lonely Devil (All Fall Down)”. It is mellow, a bit too mellow to be the album’s opening shot and sets the tone for the next few songs that seem to follow the same path of blandly recorded music.
The first song to jump out the speakers was “Listen”; however, this is only because it uses the exact same source sample as the version by Talib Kweli. Where Talib’s version uses an assertive flow and insistent drums to create a track that should have been larger, Disflex6’s laidback rendition does little to separate it from the rest of the white noise that permeates your everyday life.
Skipping to the thirteenth track, we run into a tune called “Rent” that uses the quest to pay delinquent rent as an allegory for what extreme steps the group needs to take to be in a position of affluence. It is the classic “what do I need to do to get on?” story that every struggling artist and producer faces when your dreams cannot provide for your real life needs. You begin to wonder which percentage of your soul could you comfortably place a price tag in the pursuit of actually NEEDING a savings account. The rappers go on to list possibilities ranging from using a pop hook or starting a beef with G-Unit. One rapper even goes as far to say:
“Do you know who the fuck I am?
Should I call Puffy and make that band?”
The song “Living” makes use of a nice string sample; however, the “E&J Interlude” introduces ANOTHER track that should have been a song instead of an interlude.
Though the album does have a cohesive feel, a decent feat considering it is composed of leftovers; it does not leave you feeling very much. It is definitely not a bad album, nor is it outstanding. It just floats through your speakers without leaving much of an impression while it is passing through. I understand that this group does have a fan base and this album will suffice for the completist. Perhaps I need to check out their other releases to get a better picture as to what their fans love about them. For me, this album is another indie West Coast effort that has tons of mellow without enough macho to balance it out.