Red Sox fans often mention "The Curse of the Bambino" as the reason their team can't win a World Series, referring to how Babe Ruth left them for the New York Yankees. Hip-Hop fans from Boston likely feel the same way about Guru, as he left them behind for Brooklyn and went on to meteoric heights as the rap half of GangStarr. Even the greats of Boston like Edo.G tend to get unfairly overlooked by the rap masses no matter how hard they bust their asses. Just like baseball, hip-hop in one of America's oldest cities seems to be "cursed."
Enter Akrobatik. Many MC's claim to flip when they're on the mic, but only Jared Bridgemen had the balls to actually name himself after the skill. He soon lived up to his name with a stellar series of singles, like the humerous "Internet MC's" and the boom bap hip-hop anthem "SayYesSayWord." Listening to his humbly titled "The EP" debut, Bostonians may have caught a glimpse that "The Curse of Baldheld Slick" was finally being lifted. That was almost three years ago though - what happened to Ak?
Not to fear, Mr. Bridgeman didn't pull a Bill Buckner. His invisibility on the scene only meant bigger things were in the works, and "Balance" is the result. It may seem to some he's sticking with the clever gymnastics theme with the title, but for this MC the meaning runs far deeper. Like the hit single from his fellow Boston rapper Laster, everything is "Off Balance" to Ak in rap, so his title track aims to set it straight:
"Take a look around, what you see, turmoil
At some point recently the whole world spoiled
It seems like we all fallin
But I'm here to help restore the balance cause I'm answerin my callin
And I don't think I'm better than you (nah)
But let me put you on to these jewels, and you can put me on too
I never had no problems with a lesson
I got mad problems with the world though, even my profession
There's no balance in rap, you either nerd or a thug
You either got too many big words, or bust too many slugs
You can study for years and be the world's top scholar
But tryin to make the fans feel dumb won't make 'em holla
And this shit is hard to earn, so these thugs need to learn
That they only fuckin it up for the kids when it's they turn (yea!)"
Akrobatik has more "unbalanced" things in the song to address though than just rap. Among other things, the versatile MC talks about war, governmental abuses and the sexual exploitation of black women in the media. Considering this is the first full length song of the album, it's a very auspicious start; and with production from long time collaborator Fakts One as well as big name hip-hoppers like Da Beatminerz, Diamond D and DJ Revolution contributing there's no reason not to be amped. Each track seems to hit the right notes. "Hand That Rocks the Cradle" combines a very nice drum break with punchy horns in a combo of beautiful simplicity. "Remind My Soul" has a scratchy guitar sample as eloquent as Ak's own words "remind my soul - of the time we were great before the self hate" and both wrap you like a blanket. "Front Steps" is a mesh of hyper-kinetic bass and soft jazz which is so contradictory it blends perfectly. "Wreck Dem" lives up to it's title, with a cadence of rim shots so military it punches up his already intense flow, and the sampled hook even shows ex-patriot Guru love with the quip "Watch dem fly niggaz show you how to rhyme, asshole!" The best part? Well, besides a cameo appearance by Mr. Lif, the song is SELF-PRODUCED. Akrobatik flips shit behind AND in front of the boards.
The album's success hinges on Akrobatik's verbal skills though, and he's not lacking. It's not surprising given that his label is Coup D'Etat Entertainment, known for being home to verbalists from the profound J-Live to the obscure MC Paul Barman. Akrobatik seems to have found his niche in this roster, and can indulge in a true "balance" of rap styles from the serious to just plain silly. Ak seems convinced there's not enough fun in rap, and though "Bone Crusher" might seem a macabre title the concept makes perfect sense when you hear his rap:
"And when I'm not exactly sure what I wanna do next
I simply throw on that old school joint from Das EFX
-- My thigh bone's connected to my, hip bone!
-- My hip bone's connected to my huh, hardy har har har!
I laugh cause breakin your funny bone is humerous
Too many injuries to count, they mad numerous
Snap your jaw with the mandible claw
Now you feel the pain victims of Hannibal saw!
Yo you better keep your platinum in the baller zone
You can't hold the weight of that medallion with a broken collar bone"
With scratched in samples of Jeru the Damaja and Mobb Deep's pugilistic "stab your brain with your nose bone," the package on the song is complete. For that matter, so is this album. Old school heads might be pleased by the samples of Dres and Q-Tip on the song "Woman II," but new school heads will be just as pleased by the beat and Ak's snaps like "Honey had more curves than the interstate highway." That's the reason Akrobatik lives up to his motto of "Balance" - his rap songs have a broad appeal that should give anybody from backpackers to Fabolous fans reason to appreciate his album. Even wrestling fans will be pleased, as Akrobatik proves that "WWF Aggression" and "Def Jam Vendetta" are no fluke with his words on the appropiately titled "Always Bet On Ak." Clearly, hip-hoppers love grappling:
"Who ever thought this young brother from Dorcester
Would come to be 'The Next Big Thing' like Brock Lesnar?
I've been compared to a F5 tornado
Don't get it twisted though, on the mic I'm twice as fatal
Akrobatik signifies agility
That's why I get my legal hustle-on on many levels, you feelin me?
Yo, you catchin a Beatminer beatdown from Walt
So what happens now from this point forward ain't my fault!
Evil Dee slice y'all since 1993
How many DJ's must get dissed for y'all to see?
Yo, sleep if you want but just remember this fact
You can always bet on Ak"
And that my friends sums up "Balance" perfectly. If you didn't already know about this MC, the time for Rip Van Winkle has just come to a close. Lovers of good rap not wanting to own this album would be like lovers of fast cars looking at a Porsche and going, "Nah I don't want that." Say WHAT? Of course you want it! The difference is that unlike a Porsche, "Balance" is something people without millions in the bank can afford to own - and will probably bring you more satisfaction to boot. Ak doesn't hate on those who can afford one though; he just brings "Balance" to rap by making music for the rest of us who like dope beats and rhymes as much as the bling-bling's shine. Boston's curse has now officially been lifted.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: April 24, 2003