I swear, sometimes there is no justice in this world. I am reminded by this fact while listening to the Tunnel Rats. Think about it: would any just society allow Afroman to be nominated for a Grammy while truly gifted artists like the Tunnel Rats struggle for recognition? Granted, you may not have heard "Tunnel Vision" before (and if you haven't, hear it soon!), but think of your favorite underground hip-hop crew and you know what I mean. Oh well. It's the same old story, right?
Well we could get all bitter about it. And we could whine about the MCs in the limelight who maybe don't deserve to be. But where's that gonna get us? No one wants to listen to a whiny bitch. But plenty of underground artists can end up sounding like whiny bitches when they complain about the state of today's rap music. And what happens to those crybaby underground MCs? More times, they stay underground, whether deservedly or not.
But the Tunnel Rats take a different route. They know they aren't superstars, and they do express sentiments of disappointment toward fake rappers. But they are positive about it, and they focus on their own strengths, rather than their colleagues' weaknesses. This is refreshing.
Also refreshing is the diversity of the Tunnel Rats. Multi-ethnic and equal opportunity to the fullest, the TRz represent Latino, Black, White, woman, and man. As such, each crew member has a very distinct and interesting sound, and each of them EASILY holds their own on the various solo and posse cuts.
On the title track, Macho's verses are definitely channeling early-90's LL Cool J, and it sounds nice. Elsie, the other half of the Tunnel Rats sub-group, New Breed, joins her partner Macho on this cut too. Switching up the tempo for that track's bridge is pure genius. So obviously, the album's producer, Dert, knows how to hold a listener's attention, and he proves it time and time again with fantastic cuts like "T.R.z", "For the Heads", "Bow Down", and "Chainge". He achieves HOT SHIT status while maintaining an underground sound.
L.P.G. (Living Proof of Grace) is another Tunnel Rats crew-within-a-crew, and members Jurny and Dax seem to be the backbone of the Tunnel Rats, sounding more like veterans than other members. Regardless, the two of them tear it up on the album closer, "Remember", in which they seriously lean in on weak-ass rival MCs. Raphi does his best Slim Shady impersonation on his solo joint, "Motivate", albeit with some decidedly un-Eminem lyrics. As the title suggests, Raphi is coming not to hate, but to motivate.
Sev Statik also does his fair share on "Tunnel Vision", sounding much improved over his appearances on Uprok's equally-impressive "Deepspace 5" album. While Sev's lyrics always cut deep, he hits a little closer to home for me personally on "For the Heads". You'll see what I mean:
"Listening to my vision
It's a body of work, but you only heard one limb
So then you feel you're the one to review my
Supernatural spew for this website you do? (naw)
Don't you understand what weight that holds?
Better hold off with your premature thoughts
before you mold any prism of opinion
Yall missin what I'm givin somewhere in the transmission"
Uh. Yeah, I'll admit, he made me feel pretty stupid here, cutting up the critics like that. But it takes a skilled MC to really sound authoritative enough to say those things without sounding lame. Sev pulls it off. He's got nothing to worry about as far as bad reviews go, trust me. "For the Heads" has the album's nicest beat, boasting an uncredited, amazing piano-and-drums sample that I KNOW I know from somewhere (you know how frustrating that can be). And it would be the one I call best song overall, if it wasn't for track 7 on the album, "Ladies". MUCH respect to the whole Tunnel Rats crew for letting the female MCs SHINE on this track. Damn, did they ever steal the entire show with this one. Zane and Elsie are two of the most talented women I have ever heard bless the mic, and they make me realize what a shame it is that Lil' Kim and Trina's ilk are so much more famous. "Ladies", not surprisingly, is a track strictly for the ladies, by the ladies. Yes, this has been done, I know. But it's done here better. Bold statement? Yeah maybe. But it's true. Zane sounds like Nelly Furtado if Nelly Furtado could rap (and as talented as miss Furtado is, the "Get UR Freak On Remix" showed us she should stick to singing). But Elsie is untouchable here. Peep this part of her verse:
"So I'll be every woman and all things to all,
From that friend that got your back to that sister that you call
I'll be the wife of noble character from Proverb 31,
See me through the ages, help you reach the sun
Mother of creation while you father expectation
Daughter of Mount Zion, mourning for our nations
Singin emancipation while world keeps us caged behind walls of insecurity,
False pictures be displayed"
I would love to quote the whole damn thing, but yall don't wanna read that. Plus, you need to HEAR it to believe it! Unless you are crazy, you will give this joint the rewind treatment QUICK FAST. And I'm more than happy to say that in a group of MCs as talented as the Tunnel Rats, the BEST MC in the crew is a woman. What an overwhelming step in the right direction this is. It's rare now, but I think we'll see more of this type of thing in the future.
To be blunt, I can't say enough good things about "Tunnel Vision". I know there's plenty I forgot to mention in this review. Shit, just go find the album and listen to it for yourself. You won't be sorry.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: Arpil 5, 2002