The one sheet accompanying El Gant’s “Beast Academy” has the usual amount of hyperbole – prolific, “paired with several of the industry’s most revered lyricists” and even describes him as “aggressive and fast paced.” At this point my eyes roll back in my head like Undertaker and the album gets sent to a grave six feet beneath the Earth, but El Gant caught a couple of good breaks on this review. The first is that his album is 30 minutes long, which contradicts the “full length” the description on his sheet, but is just the right amount for the level of interest I have in this release. The second is that after feeling burnt out for a couple of weeks, El Gant’s timing is just right for me to make a reviewing comeback. The last is that I’ve heard and featured El Gant singles or cameos on previous editions of The Hip-Hop Shop so in some respects I feel like I’m already familiar with his work.
Introductions out of the way it’s time to get down to brass tacks about “Beast Academy.” Gant is a classic New York punchline rapper, trying to make you laugh or at least smile with lines like “I paid dues/you’ve been suckin’ dick since Kool G. Rap spit _Ill Street Blues_.” He’s also got a good producer in JOAT (Jack Of All Trades) who runs the gamut of typical hip-hop styles. In particular “Truth Hurts” featuring Torae is Alchemist meets Primo complete with DJ Devastate scratches from Dilated Peoples, Method Man and Mobb Deep to make the song complete. It’s the kind of boom bap track that would make you headnod even if you had no regard for either of these emcees – it’s the perfect compliment to a summer rap mixtape.
More often than not I’m down with the material presented on “Beast Academy.” At times the song titles seem a little desperate for pop culture attention with titles like “Mr. Miyagi” and “Goldie Hawn,” but it’s fair to say that “Bases Loaded” has nothing to do with sports other than having a roster of all-stars: Shabaam Sahdeeq, F.T., Bekay and Red Eye who along with El Gant take the Marvel inspired group name of Infinity Gauntlet. The danger of making a Slaughterhouse type supergroup in 2014 is that it can wind up overshadowing your own solo material, and I’d be lying if “Bases Loaded” didn’t make me want an I.G. album as much or more than Gant’s. Still tracks like the aforementioned “Goldie Hawn” featuring El Da Sensei and dark and menacing “Energy” with J. Blanc make this short album a success. If I have to fault El Gant for anything it’s that with a producer as good as JOAT he didn’t need to give up so much of his spotlight to guest stars – he could have held it down dolo.