The multitalented Saskatchewan-born, Toronto-based Muneshine has received no shortage of love from critics and his fellow artists alike, including those employed by RapReviews. In his review of 2007’s instrumental album “A Walk in the Park,” now-retired writer and producer Matt Tomer praised Mune for his smooth production and ear for soul samples, resulting in beats so good that he found it “unfortunate” that his upcoming album “Status Symbol” was to feature only his raps and not his beats. Since then Muneshine has been so busy it’s been tough to keep up with him, appearing on projects by such acclaimed producers as Oddisee and Incise and collaborating with big names from across the international scene including Shad, Ohmega Watts, and Ed O.G. Earlier this year his full-length collaboration with Long Island MC/producer Saint as The Residents earned him further praise from this site, and he continues to record extensively with fellow Canadians D-Sisive and Ghettosocks as well as his Wax Reform crew.
Tomer’s misgivings about “A Walk in the Park” stemmed from the fact that Muneshine is such a blatantly talented producer that leaving such duties to outside contributors seemed practically illogical. However, if the previous paragraph didn’t suggest that Mune is down with some of the very finest in underground hip hop, you better believe that’s true. Over fourteen tracks, Mune graces beats by Illmind, M-Phazes, Saint, Freddie Joachim, Suff Daddy, Presto, and Oddisee and trades bars with Sean Price, Termanology, Nature, Skyzoo, Kenn Starr, and Little Vic. With this kind of personnel it’d be hard to make an album that was anything but great, yet Muneshine’s performance is what makes it such an unusually consistent, reflective, and downright appealing listen.
From the outset Mune’s refined delivery makes his thoughtful rhymes sound effortless. The expansive intro gives way to the ominous Illmind production “Mark My Words,” a cautionary exercise aimed at competitors and second-guessers. The wide variety of sounds and moods tackled is part of what makes “Status Symbol” so consistently endearing, and the Denosh-assisted “Human Nature” is so silky-smooth it’s not a far cry to imagine LL Cool J or C.L. Smooth rocking the soothing, low-key production, but Mune makes it his own with a slick barrage of game for the ladies. On a few subsequent love songs, he proves capably versatile, introspectively chronicling relationships without any hints of corniness on “Farewell,” the fresh Oddisee track “Leavin’ You,” and his sole production “Love You More” rich with nostalgic soul instrumentation.
M-Phazes’ three productions are each gems boasting the quality I’ve come to expect from the Australian virtuoso. The sentimental “Globetrotters” is a vehicle for Mune to spread worldwide love, and the international vibe carries over to “Foreign Affairs,” a rich collabo with Queensbridge vet Nature, although it’s not all love this time aroundâ€”both MCs have bones to pick with customs officials:
“Two o’ clock in the morning, I arrive at the border
In Vancouver, me and Can U travelin’ through
We’re trying to reach Washington State before the sun come up
When Tollbooth Willie decided he should tie us up
So we pull into immigration a bit evasive
Fuckin’ asshole, this here bigot’s a little racist
I never knew Canadian dudes would get the beef
Yo, I thought they only profiled dudes from the Middle East
Welcome to America, we don’t like y’all
It don’t matter if you black, yellow, purple or white y’all
Right y’all, this guy figured I was a snake
I couldn’t break it to him I was barely into visitin’ this place
Dude said he’d throw me in jail
If I returned without more papers supportin’ my tale
So off we bail, back to the real land of the free
Home sweet home, from Canada I’m happy to be”
M-Phazes’ drums and horns hit hard on “What Now,” a beast of a track with superb verses from East Coast favorites Sean Price and Termanology. The tracklist-closing posse cut “It’s Mine,” a chilling Illmind track featuring Little Vic, Emilio Rojas, Skyzoo, Kenn Starr, and D-Sisive manages to fulfill its sizable potential given its all-star cast as the MCs snarl through their menacing tag-team rhymes.
The most striking song is “Waterworld (Revisited),” a conceptual piece featuring gorgeous production from Saint utilizing a stunning array of digital instrumentation:
“In the waterworld, you can drown in the deep end
Just for runnin’ ’round on the weekend, practicin’ what you preach and
I pray to God you got jimmy hats
In this day and age, skinny dip and you catch a rash
Mad dirty, better wear your waterwings
‘Cause if you swimmin’ in women without ’em you ain’t got a lot of brains
Be a star, you a target
Be a star-fucker, you can produce the supermarket
And that’s the truth, it ain’t farfetched, I see it time and again
Nine out of ten are tryin’ to get in
Long whistles, I ain’t tryin’ to offend, but if you tryin’ to pretend
This ain’t a problem then you kinda with them
In the waterworld, girls got it rough
Until it all change, I can’t say it enough”
The soulful, piano-based “Cats & Dogs” is a brilliant template for Mune’s vivid tales of people struggling to get by, followed by the upbeat alcohol ode “Liquorhound.” The lively Presto production “Today’s Special” is a late standout, blending a soaring muted trumpet with flute and jazzy keyboards for a musically magnificent and lyrically clever highlight.
It’s hard not to like Muneshine for his hardworking nature and consummate skills as a producer, rapper, and engineer, and clearly his peers agree, coming out in droves to supply memorable production and collaborations throughout “Status Symbol.” Muneshine manages to maintain the spotlight throughout, though, and his versatility makes it a gripping and addicting listen. For such a talented beatsmith it is a little unexpected that he would delegate the production to others, but one listen is all it takes to see that he sacrifices nothing in the beat department by enlisting his acclaimed friends for the job. A record with no skip material and tons of replay value, “Status Symbol” captures the multifaceted talent of an artist whose swift rise to acclaim and universal respect should soon place him among the elite.