It seems as though virtually each state in the Dirty South has made noise on the rap scene by now. From OutKast, Goodie Mob, and Ludacris in Georgia, to Scarface and UGK in Texas, to the No Limit and Cash Money crews in Louisiana, to Trick Daddy in Florida, to 8Ball and MJG in Tennessee, and most recently Petey Pablo in North Carolina. Now it seems that it is Kentucky's turn, with Louisville's own Nappy Roots. The bottom line is that the South is so much larger than it was 5 years ago, at times it is unbelievable how much the Dirty has blown up. And with their quick ascent into the upper reaches of sales and national exposure in the past few years, they have, for better or worse, been defined by a certain sound. People have the tendency to associate the South with bouncy beats about with hype, simple, catchy hooks designed to get people to hit the dancefloor and wild out. But in making such assumptions, they are likely to overlook many of the underground acts that place their emphasis on lyrical content, ill rhymes, and straight grimy beats that could easily be mistaken for something coming right out of the BX.
This is where the Diamondbax come in. Blitz aka Stormshadow and Black Rain comprise the Bax. The Louisville, Kentucky duo are as underground as it gets. Selling records straight out of the trunk and using word of mouth as their only true form of advertisement, they are as hungry and skilled as any new MCs I've heard in some time. Both Blitz and Black Rain have the lyrical skill and voices/flows to score a major label deal, both groupwise and individually, sometime in the near future, if that was the route that they opted to take. Certainly if it was, their first mixtape/album, TunnelVisionz, gives them a hell of a portfolio. It is referred to as a mixtape because, in addition to 10 cuts featuring original production, they also layed vocals over nine beats previously utilized by other artists, from Jay-Z to Mos Def to Mobb Deep to 2Pac. This allows people to witness their ability to rock virtually any type of production imaginable.
The funny thing is, the Diamondbax, are more reminiscent of that pure, raw, uncut circa 1995 NY shit than most new acts out of NY are. They take this shit back to one of the golden ages in hip hop, mixing a few battle rap joints here, with real life experience and personal rhymes there, in perfect harmony, sounding perfectly natural doing either. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, the group's main producer Vice cooked up some truly hot beats along the way, and the previously used beats are all hot selections as well.
The first cut on the album is "Thatz Why", which features a dark beat produced by Vice and DJ Bree. Black Rain kicks it off with a real sick verse, featuring lines like:
"See us together in deadly matrimony
Was coldy told I'm only to split my cash with homies
Cuz we grew up together, to mob as the sickest clique
My cold burner freezes hot headed hypocrites"
Blitz comes through and blazes his verse as well, and combined with an eerie sung hook that reminds me of a vocal sample RZA might use, this joint sets the tone for the whole album: dope shit with no compromises.
"Talkin Bout" is a more uptempo track than "That's Why", with a dramatic beat courtesy of Vice and JC. Blitz goes solo on this one, and tears the track to shreds. I wouldn't refer to this a party track per se, but it is a song that gets the listener amped. Spitting battle style lyrics throughout, this song also does a nice job serving as showcase for some of what Blitz is capable of:
"Spittin outrageous slang, contagious
It feels like reality was written with missin pages
Different faces and still the same reaction:
Heavy rotation, banging in your system, blastin"
One of the songs that they rap over a previously utilized beat is "Trunk Music", which features the beat of Tommy's Theme by Made Men. The beat is, if you've never heard it, extremely ill, hard edged, and fast paced. Blitz once again goes solo, and does the beat justice, spitting plenty of phat rhymes once again.
One of the more conscious tracks on the album is "Listen 2 This" featuring Wisdom, who is actually the cat that put me onto the Diamondbax in the first place. The beat is pure excellence, courtesy of Vice and Soul Eternity. Blitz, Wisdom, and Rain all spit some real shit on this cut, I mean that's the best way to put it, just real shit. And everyone's verse is ill. Here's a sample, courtesy of Wisdom's verse:
"Panic ensues, my heartbeat is faster than light
Plus it's burnin with desire and a passion to fight
My spoken words, chokin herbs, I follow no trends
I reveal heavenly matters like a telescope lense"
"So Much" featuring Vice (both vocals from him and production as well) is one of the dopest cuts on an extremely dope album. The beat is one that I would probably believe that the Alchemist produced if that's what I was told. The verses are sickness yet again. Black Rain flows:
"Crooks and liars and thieves network the moves I make
There's so much money to take, I guard my loot with tanks
Truth is painfully the reason why I so much hurt
I can't explain the way I'm feelin when I go beserk
Plus this soldier's verse curses all the weak at heart
Me and my strap are a couple: we never sleep apart"
Although the entire album is very tight, several other standout cuts are "NBA", which borrows the "Natural High" beat and parallels rhymes with basketball moves and players. "X-Men" borrows Erick Sermon's Symphony 2000 beat, and includes some dope rhymes from all parties involved, including guests Kentuckyana Jones and Blade. "Farenheit", produced by Vice, is yet another banging original beat coupled with some sick solo work from Blitz.
In fact, the only track on the entire album, which includes 17 actual songs, that I wasn't really feeling was "Napalm". That means, basically, that the Diamondbax dropped one of the most impressive underground debut tapes that I've ever heard. To me, Blitz is something of a little more hype and more lyrical version of Dilated Peoples' Evidence. Black Rain provides a nice contrast, with a grittier, harder and more energetic delivery. Both are excellent in terms of distinct, powerful voices and ill flow. The original beats are extremely dope and uncompromised, just sickening shit. The MCs also show how ill they can sound over beats from some of the game's most well known producers, from Primo to Erick Sermon to Hangmen 3.
It's worth it to check these cats out, they are FOR REAL. This is one of the best underground groups out there right now, and anyone who's a fan of straight up, pure hip-hop that's not filled with a bunch of contrived bullshit will probably love the Diamondbax. The underground is not dead, and from the looks of things, between Diamondbax and Nappy Roots, it appears that Louisville may be the next hot spot for Southern hip hop.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 12, 2002