The time has come to recognize that the Snowgoons have created – let’s not call it a movement, but an avenue, a platform, an umbrella for a number of artists, some still blossoming, some yet budding. Strength in numbers isn’t as effective as it used to be in rap music. In the underground, the Demigodz surprisingly came back, in the mainstream, G-Unit’s comeback not surprisingly failed. Hustle Gang, Taylor Gang, Jet Life, A$AP Mob, Dreamville, etc. are far from what they would have been some years ago when corporate branding was so important for rap collectives and individual members, and even further from having earned a place in history along rap’s greatest clans, posses, crews and cliques (something Slaughterhouse still have to work on). Some, like Young Money and Odd Future, initially had years of rap world domination ahead of them but then lost interest or focus or both. Even one of the supergroups that kind of gave the Snowgoons the idea for what they do, the Army of the Pharaohs, didn’t seize the opportunity to create a true legacy.
As a consolation, AOTP-ers regularly appear on Snowgoons releases, and these Snowgoons releases just keep coming. “Independent Warriors” is a compilation of previously released, upcoming, and exclusive material. Perhaps it’s out of force of habit (it’s been their strategy since 2007’s “German Lugers”) that their releases don’t feel like random assortment of voices they simply were lucky to record anymore. There’s a selection process at work. Bonds and identities are forming. That may sound vague, but still more eloquent than the short round of introduction Sean Strange gives on the “Intro”: “Representin’ from Europe – DJ Illegal, Det Gunner, J.S. Kuster and that boy Sicknature reppin’ it for the underground hip-hop worldwide.” Or perhaps that’s all you need to know.
Looking back on an extended rap career predating his Snowgoons membership, Sicknature has become their representative in the recording booth. Opening the titular “Independent Warriors,” he vows that “this gon’ hit you like a Wookiee slapped ya.” Doing what they do well, the Goons continue to score their swords-and-sandals hip-hop. As usual the cast has its share of battle-scarred mic-wielders. Heavy Metal Kings Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz join Sicknature for some solid bars of “Violent Rage.” The trio of Esoteric, Celph Titled and Virtuoso do the “Sweatshop Deathrock.” Swifty McVay represents Detroit’s Dirty Dozen all by himself on “Dirty Goons” while his sparring partner Jay Gill claims to have undergone a name change but remains one of the typical tag-alongs who, perhaps legitimately, will always have a place on Snowgoons projects. Among the various, once household, now on the brink of has-been names that the Snowgoons have attempted to bring back are Onyx. “Dirty Cops” off their 2014 joint album “#WakeDaFucUp” is a brief reminder that their higher profile collaborations have generally been successful. Audible Doctor did the same thing on an individual level by producing Fredro Starr’s “Made in the Streets,” which makes their “This Ain’t My Day” track a fitting inclusion.
When you research the origins of the 17 songs on “Independent Warriors,” you come across a wealth of releases billed to the Snowgoons and their label Goon MuSick. They are, by default, the go-to guys for standardized, globalized hardrock hip-hop (not to be mistaken for plain rock rap). It’s a foolproof formula, to the point where they can touch down in Hungary with their Goon squad in tow and leave local act Killakikitt with a complete album (predictably called “KillaGoons”). There’s surely plenty more where that came from, yet somewhere down the road there has to be that one outstanding release. And if it happens to be their definitive retrospective, the song selection has to be stronger than on this 2015 snapshot.
Despite that, “Independent Warriors” doesn’t deserve to be overlooked just because allegedly the Snowgoons keep making the same beats over and over again. First off, that is simply not true (see Typ III’s subdued “No Surrender,” or their remix of JR & PH7 and Oddisee’s “All in a Day’s Work,” or Nature’s “If You Watch” sounding eerily like something off his 2000 debut), and secondly, it gives you the chance to catch up with gems like the furious RA the Rugged Man feature on Diabolic’s “Suffolk’s Most Wanted.” (What does a guy have to do around here to get a full-length KGR/RA collabo?) The quartet also brings to light the talent of the late Viro the Virus via a remix of “Beastiality” (“Perversion of language / Linguists concerned with the anguish / inflicted if they bang this / Got ’em scared as a long-tailed cat inside a room full of rocking chairs (…) MC’s cover their heads like toupees / and priests claim that my release date’s doomsday / It’s all been said – I just say it in a new way”). Speaking of all having been said, the most precious find here has to be Lost Cauze’s touching dedication to his son diagnosed with autism, “Talk to Me,” definitely not standard rap fare. Not only could the song turn a new page in Reef’s discography, it’s also a break from the often none-too-subtle song material found on Snowgoons releases.