No low lows hoppin' up and down. No interludes praising the effect of that Cali chronic. And this guy is from Fresno?!?!?! Sure is grasshopper, and while reppin' his hometown of Fresno, Ca and the Pottle Projects with pride, Skoolyard Massive emcee Kubiq isn't afraid to let you know he isn't your run of the mill "West Coast artist." Out of the same crew that spawned Planet Asia, if it weren't for the Cali references, and some of the unmistakable slang that permeates throughout (Kuboniqs, as he calls it) you'd think the intelligent rhymes and backpacker-like flow are a sure signal that Kubiq hails from somewhere out East, but things aren't always what they seem.
Upon first look, an album that alternates between interludes and tracks (13 tracks, 11 interludes) brings out the usual "Damn, unless this cat is on some Redman shit, and can actually make these interludes interesting, this album is gonna drag!!" Once again, things aren't what they seem. Kubiq either keeps the interludes short, funny as hell, or uses them as an opportunity to let a head nodding beat bless the speakers, and by the time the next track comes in, you've had the chance to process the last track, while your brain prepares for the next.
Lyrically, Kubiq is a breath of fresh air. Long cluttered by tired subject matter, and repetitive beats, the West has been waiting for emcees like Kubiq to push their way to the forefront, and prove that you don't have to be shaped by the mainstream expectations of your residence. Sure, Kubiq is part E-40 with his own slanguage (folks is Kuboniqs for friends), but he is just as much Talib Kweli, with metaphors and an intelligent flow, that makes you quick hit that rewind button so you make sure you got it all. Peep his thoughts from "Visions":
"Dealin with the many different forms of stagnation
At the day's end, poetic thoughts I engage in
Word on the street is that The Yard keep blazin'
We in the C, but we ain't the crustaceans"
Also, lyrics like "I don't keep a gun /I keep fresh raps and lungs/ Embezzle funds and do sleep runs when the beat comes TIIIIIGHT/Shinin' that light/With suckas tryin' to smother my sight/My vocals is ice, that pure white/Sniff that from "Fall in Line" show that a Cali MC is more than "big screen TV's, blunts, 40's, and bitches" Guests like Asop, Kemet, and Shake don't dissapoint and compliment Kubiq's flow as they bring more of that Skoolyard Knowledge. Planet Asia and Rasco both show up on different tracks, and show why their Cali Agent collective "How the West was One" was probably the best independent albums released in 2000.
Kubiq didn't stray far from home for production, as the album was entirely produced by the Bay Area's Fanatik. A rarity in hip hop, few albums have been entirely produced by one producer, but monotony is not an issue, as Fanatik crafts bass heavy headbangers, and is not afraid to experiment with a few piano loops like on "Visions" and "Fall in Line." While the beats are more than acceptable to allow Kubiq to operate, some tracks like "How you Feel" sound a bit elementary, but Fanatik makes up for it on bangers like "Fans of Rhyme" and the lead single "Neva U." the surprise production-wise on this album is all the scratching. 8 of 13 tracks, feature some kind of scratched hook or track that would make DJ Premier jealous. Thankfully the scrathes are not overdone and do nothing but compliment the album. (Check out the police siren getting cut up at the end of "Neva U" by DJ Quest for live Human….hot!)
Adopting the name of his projects and his slogan, P.O.T.T.L.E. (People Out To Touch Live Elevation) Kubiq and the rest of the Skoolyard are out to do just that, as albums like this promise to blur the lines between a so-called "West Coast artist" or an "East Coast artist" and maybe take a small step towards the goal of a united Hip Hop nation. West Coast? East Coast? Nope. Dope Emcee? Yup.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: June 9, 2001