One thing I’ve noticed over the decades, via both real-life and television, is a certain extent of enmity between New York City and their neighboring state of New Jersey. When I’ve asked some NYC natives why they hate on Jersey, the answer is usually either “Because they wanna be us” or “It’s not hate, they’re just bad drivers”. I myself am an outsider and borderline southerner, so given what I know about NYC, it’s easy to mistake a New Jersey resident for a New Yorker. But no matter the differences, both areas produce dope hip-hop when they come together. We’ve got Method Man & Redman, Cage & Tame One as the Leak Bros., and now the latest collaboration consisting of Hackensack’s CRIMEAPPLE and Brooklyn’s DJ Skizz. On “Wet Dirt”, the two create an album of gritty rhymes over vintage samples flipped into even grittier street soundscapes.
The album begins with the title track, which itself starts out with an eerie sample of “My Favorite Things” before Skizz’s beat drops with piano samples and choir voices as CRIMEAPPLE paints his graphic rhymes and street-honed wordplay over the track. The second track, “Pasteles” is a nod to CRIMEAPPLE’s Colombian heritage, with him even rapping in Spanish in certain parts over Skizz’s soul-drenched production. “Springfield Power Plant” has the most urban feel to it of the three and there’s even a reference from “The Simpsons” to connect the song to the album title.
There’s almost a minimalism on “Chuletas” when it comes to the production, but that’s more than made up for with CRIMEAPPLE’s street justice lyrics and on-point internal rhyme displays. Despite the title, “Heavy Sativas” isn’t an ode-to-weed track (well, not in terms of the lyrics). However, it does have a psychedelic sound to it with the Skizz’s sample usage and the sick DJ cuts. But if any track on this EP is representative of that east coast street sound that abounds “Wet Dirt”, it’s “Skeleton Key”. Highlighted by some creepy high-note piano samples and hard drums, CRIMEAPPLE drops some of his hardest rhymes (“Fuck your arbitrary lifestyle, my worth triples every month / Crystals on my drugs is like a prism in my lungs”):
“Purple Rain” has what sounds like an ’80s soul sample and reminds me of an Alchemist production, but thematically it’s a about a break-up, the end of a relationship. Skizz’s trend of mellow production continues on “Divine”, as do CRIMEAPPLE’s “when thugs cry” lyrics of reminiscence, which in this case is a first-person narrative about teenage pregnancy and abortion. Honestly, it evokes memories of “Retrospect for Life” by Common. The album ends with less wistful production on “FFFeel Good”, a braggadocio track over a grimy bass and drum loop.
To bring the review full circle, it was a friend who recommended this album to me. A friend who ironically is a Bronx-born, New Jersey-raised transplant. When you think of the term “Wet Dirt”, the first thing that comes to mind is mud. But perhaps that’s the point of the album, to show that an NYC/NJ combo can sink into that wet dirt and come out with grit that actually glistens.