Though she hails from Oakland and can count hip-hop legends Digital Underground as her fam, this little known female rapper splashed on the scene with barely a word of warning - making her name Mystic seem especially apt. With a debut price of $6.99 in many stores the first week "Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom" was released, already doubtful heads may have been even MORE suspicious that there was reason to be wary. Was the bargain price a tactic by her label to push mediocre LP units, or was this actually a chance to sample a talented new artist at an unbelievable discount?
Thankfully the latter proves to be more accurate. Mystic neatly sidesteps the recent onslaught of female MC's who are either thugs or sluts and presents a positive mental and musical vibe which may at first draw comparisons to Lauryn Hill. In fact the temptation may be made irresistable by the fact she smoothly croons her way through "The Life," the album's lead single. Mystic does her best to preserve her uniqueness though by not being pegged down lyrically or sonically. The album's diverse and talented production team greatly helps the cause; as sonic gems are crafted by the likes of The Dotrix, Chops (Mountain Brothers), Spontaneous, and The Angel. Not a single track could be called weak or musically unlistenable, but the standouts besides the lead single include the lush organic sound of "OK... Alright", the funked out "Destiny Complete", smooth-flowing "Neptune's Jewels" and the somber "Fatherless Child."
Great tracks mean little when not paired with great words - otherwise this album would just be a compilation of beautiful instrumentals. Mystic solidifies the whole ambience of the album by having songs whose words seem to be the product of both intense introspection and clear-sighted observation. Both are put to powerful use on the spooky song "Ghetto Birds", which takes the concept a place that Ice Cube never even dreamed of on "Lethal Injection":
"With yo' name in wet concrete, you still ain't on the block
Let your money counter tick, time still gon' talk/tock
You could - walk around in a Hennessy bliss
and keep fuckin them bitches that you ain't even kiss
You could - keep gettin high with them tears in yo' eyes
And tellin yo'self you like fuckin them guys
You've got mountains of things - get money..
.. they not high enough to save you when the troops come runnin
in your shiny new Hummer, that ain't strong enough
to withstand the bombs they gon' drop on us"
Mystic ain't afraid to attack shallow materialism or dangerously nihilistic behaviors but doesn't limit herself to spending the whole album preaching - although one suspects the album would be almost as enjoyable if she did. Mystic covers a broad range of subjects, such as a non-pressure relationship on the sly "Once a Week", the paranoia and loneliness of a hustler on "D Boy" and Mystic's own hopes for a more blessed life on "A Dream." You can't deny her presence and charisma, no matter the subject - and you can't doubt her talent when she refuses to play a role or be pigeonholed in her musical vision. The biggest surprise is that for half the money, Mystic's album is worth three times the price; and even if it's not still on sale at your local store of choice you owe it to yourself to buy this album. Mystic is that true rarity among female rappers - dope with no gimmicks. MC Lyte's words will haunt the wannabe Foxy Browns and Lil' Kims of the world when this album is played - their skimpy outfits and underweight lyrics truly seem "Paper Thin" compared to Mystic.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 28, 2001