"Focused Daily" was Defari's first full-length (and frankly, formidable) foray into the kingdom of rap LPs. Laced with astute production and competent lyrics, 'Def-Ar-I' Herut burst onto the scene and staked a claim for himself and Tha Likwit crew. An Ivy League graduate from Columbia University who's "been rolling with the whole Likwit crew" for some years now, Defari is "back on the chart path with a brand new album." Up and comers Porse and Nucleus assist behind the boards, and rap heavyweights E-Swift, Evidence (Dilated Peoples), Fredwreck and Barbershop Kiz provide the beats.
The musical selection opens up with "Pick a Number," and Defari sets the tone right away:
"I'm off the chain like runaway slaves with gauges
my life had to change so I broke through the cages
face the nation, lyrics for you shitty critics
bottle of whisky, the stressed man, Herut be sippin
Open the gates, get it on, don't hesitate
Stompin like King Kong nigga, from the Golden State
Holdin weight in the Pacific 10 conference
You fuckin with Defari, man, you fuckin wit a monster
Big rhymes, big shows, big sponsors
So big sometimes I think my name is Swanson
But it's not, it's OG Duane Johnson
Wit diamond cut rhymes that be costing when I floss em..."
Alkaholiks member E-Swift makes a verbal appearance on "Inner City" and helps take the LP up a notch; on only the second track. 'Swift' strings and thumping bass blend harmoniously to create a true Westside banger. "Cold Pieces" is a yet another testament to the fact that Los Angeles is filled to the brim with a bevy of fine women; as if the crap Hollywood puts out ain't enough to alert us to that fact. Well, this cut possesses a super-soft piano melody, adequately backed up by drums, and attempts to capture a certain atmosphere. However, it feels as if the beat is out of place alongside the lyrics. This beat belongs to perhaps a mournful tale, and not on a cut depicting what LA has to offer with regards to females.
"Spell My Name" is a simplistic and rough, rugged and raw number boasting a deep drum musicality. Defari's voice ain't deep or unnerving enough to do this beat justice. He should have passed it on to fellow Likwit mate Xzibit. Wack rap artists' "Hooks" are what's been pissing Defari off as of late; as he states during the chorus. Sadly, there is mediocre production by Porse on this cut, and to be honest, what did piss me off was the lack of originality in the 'hook' of this track. And another thing (while we are on the subject of things that piss me the fuck off); I'm not sure if this is a massive coincidence or not, but there's an irritating 'sound clip' every 20 seconds of this LP. Imagine the sound of Smokey (Chris Tucker) taking a deep pull of the herb, and then choking on the Indo smoke like Mista Grimm. Well, that whole 'inhale/cough' sound byte is interspersed throughout this album, at a frequency of about 5 times per track. That type of shit may have been appropriate and 'cool' on "Ready to Die," just before "Machine Gun Funk," but on the promotional copy of "Odds & Evens" it's just plain fucking annoying. But wait. There's more! Another sound byte of a supposedly cute toddler saying "Are you my daddy?" follows the other sound byte almost each and every time. These oddly-placed clips are most probably the calling card of High Times Records; as if Defari's copious references to weed were not enough to hip us to the fact that he's signed to onto High Times. "Take The Weight of My Hand" and "Chocolate Ty(Interlude)" are two very short tracks that attempt to slow down the pace of things. On the former, Defari spits a minute long declaration of his heart:
"And I'm a bang over the illest of beats
Do my thang and keep a good name out in these streets
Break ya neck Hook nigga, show some respect
Alkaholiks is the fam, nigga mind on his check
Give your children a chance, without bread how can they advance
When they eighteen, the Devil sells broken dreams
Why you always ask me if I play ball, older whitey?
Is it because of the Baron Davis jersey and new Nikes?
Take the weight of my hand, the breath of my life
For those who don't understand I do more than just right
I do by my family, a man, the realness inside
The stress always wanna test a black man pride..."
Squeaky clean and crisp soulful 'horns' make up the tonality of "Xtra Thump," while a laid back groove rumbles in background. A legend in his own right, Tash makes a guest showing, and as always, doesn't disappoint:
"Six trey Chevrolets, all day everyday
L.A., California that's the way we play
We do it to it, Likwit music
Power movement, +Home Improvement+
We don't give a fuck, say what you say
D to the E. F.A.R.I. we sky high alumni
Likwit niggas don't die
Tryin to buy everything buyable, homie liable
The Likwit crew's drive for survival is undeniable..."
"For the Love" is what ensues, and is a rather sappy ode to the 'father figures' in Defari's family. Dilated People's Evidence takes a break from creating music to showcase his verbal prowess on "Los Angelinos" and Phil da Agony manages to creep onto the scene with the final entry "Stay Bubblin."
A track that should have been a highlight to this LP is the remix to "Behold My Life," featuring the Dilated Peeps. I'm embarrassed to divulge this, but as this track was bumpin, I found myself yawning. That's something symptomatic of this LP. I was quite excited and tore off the wrapping when I realized it was Defari that I would soon be listening to. However, as I gave it a repeated listen, things just didn't seem to add up. This album is a far cry from "Focused Daily." The production is uneven, lyrics unspectacular, and disappointing overall. The Likwit crew has always stood for many a great thing, but now it seems as if the addition of Defari may have been prematurely effected; a haste decision on their part. This sort of music does NOT warrant the Likwit affiliation. I'm so disappointed, I think I'll go listen to "Coast II Coast" to try and forget about this LP.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: October 21, 2003