I aborted three different introductions to the first paragraph of my Moka Only “Sex Money Moka” review. Talking about his tenure as part of Swollen Members feels like old news – and given his second run with the crew ended in 2005 it is. Talking about the fact he hails from Vancouver feels like an excuse for a bunch of tired cliches about Canada and hockey, which I’m surely as sick of as any of the Canadian hip-hop fans who read reviews written by Yanks. Even talking about his alter ego Ron Contour feels “been there, done that” to me.
Here’s the bottom line – if you already know who Moka Only is and what he’s accomplished in the past two decades in hip-hop we’re golden. If you’re not familiar with Moka we’ve got seven other Moka Only albums archived and that’s not even counting his part time Member-ship. You can feel free to dig through the vaults and learn more about him. For everybody else I’m going to assume you already know who he is, where he comes from, and what he’s all about. Moka is happily an iconoclast of hip-hop, immersed in the history of the music, but also willing to take that knowledge as a tool to deconstruct it and reinvent it in his own style. “I Wanna” exemplifies this approach as he digs into Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock and gives it his own mellow spin.
“I wanna rock right now
I’m Kareem and I came to get down
all through international zones
Coastin, braggin, boastin – mostly
I’m a mythical cat, with a style that’s untypical
That, should equal difficult
A misfit that float, in a different boat
But I don’t tippy-toe shit, I’m official though”
I suspect the third and fourth lines are a Leaders of the New School reference – if so extra respect. He’s a throwback to that early 1990’s era of rap in many respects on this album. There’s a breezy Native Tongues mellow vibe to songs like “Inside My Heart,” “Flying” and “You Won’t Get Much Higher” – in fact I’d swear the latter was a lost track from “Beats, Rhymes and Life” and that’s meant as the highest possible compliment. It’s the most underrated and overlooked album in Tribe’s catalogue and worthy of imitation by Moka Only whether by accident or design. If it came out that he sampled Ali Shaheed Muhammad in constructing this song I’d believe it.
If there’s an overarching theme to “Sex Money Moka” it’s that Moka Only wants to see “geniuses and monsters all combined” as he spits on the album’s closer “I’m Coming On the World,” which finds the jazzy and playfully sexual stylings he’s been spitting for 54 minutes reach an apropo climax. Guest features on the album are infrequent but not inappropriate, as dope artists like LMNO join on on “Love and Happiness.” If you’re looking for an antidote to the overly dramatic hyperaggressive hip-hop that dominates the market today, try a little “Sex Money Moka” around your way. He’s jazzy, he’s fat ‘n all that, but the only thing nasty is how nice this album sounds no matter what stereo you play it in.