I guess Mad Dukez finally got the message that he needs to make longer albums. “M4L (mad4lyfe)” clocks in at a healthy 45 minutes, which finally allows me to get my MD fix without having to string a bunch of EP releases back to back. Dukez has always had the lyrical talent and musical backing to do longer playing releases, so I suspect the only reasons he didn’t do so before now were (1.) It’s easier to keep feeding the masses when you have more short doses to drop and (2.) As much as he tours and hustles it was hard to sit down for long enough to record more than a few songs. With “M4L” everything has finally come together in one place at one time.
For those being introduced to Dukez for the first time, he’s a Buffalo area rap artist, part of a long-time scene of hip-hop artists in the state of NY who get overshadowed by the behemoth that is the juggernaut of the New York City area. It’s like trying to be a dope artist from Topeka and still be as well known as Tech N9ne in Kansas. With production from Nat Wheat and guest vocals from Vinci though “Our Time” is here and “Our Time” is now.
One of the album’s longest tracks is “Mad About Something”. With production and vocals from Kevin Gunn and a sung hook that’s reminiscent of “Started Small” (one of my first and favorite Mad Dukez tracks), this cut plays out like a collaborative song of Buffalo greatness that’s mad about being overlooked on the larger scene. The beat is very friendly though compared to the follow up “Unaffected”, a Siekick laced joint that sounds as MAD as anything Dukez does on the entire LP.
There’s little doubt SOMEONE was trying to trip my nostalgia trigger with “The Rebel” by sampling the obscure seminal rap track “Off & On” by Trends of Culture. I don’t know if Covert the producer or Mad the emcee had the idea, but hearing Nastee spit “The rebel!! On another level!!” made my day. The funny thing is the track sounds like a throwback to the same era itself. A jazzy piano lick, crispy snare and a nice snappy bass make for a pleasant experience in your headphones or your ride.
The only thing this album seems to be lacking is production from long time partner-in-crime and collaborator Fresh Kils, but his influence can still be felt on the electro-futuristic “Tell Em” featuring WZA of 14Trapdoors. On its own the instrumental would be perfect background music for a tense standoff in a science fiction movie, but with the bars it’s a perfect match.
It’s hard to find something not to like on “M4L (mad4lyfe)“. From the boom box style backdrop of “All Good” to the reflective and assertive grittiness of “Made It Here” to the aptly named roughneck stylings of “Savages”, it’s win after win throughout this album. It’s a shame that the Bills can’t say the same thing when it comes to the Super Bowl, but as long as Mad Dukez is winning, Buffalo is never in the shadows of NY. He’s a true giant with or without the NFL contract.