For this compilation, FD assembled a diverse collective of Asian-American rappers. Though no Asian-American rapper has made a huge dent in the hip hop scene to date, Holdin' It Down is a sampler designed to help carve their niche.
It's no mistake that the first rapper featured is Jin, and that he drops a freestyle-type straight verse over some beatboxing (a la Slick Rick) is equally intentional; while there is obviously a nationality theme to this album, it's not token. The old school style track may seem a bit contrived, but it's a nod to hip hop history, and Aznraps has obviously been studying. While Jin, who soon drops his debut with the Ruff Ryders, is easily the most recognizable MC featured on the sampler, there are some others who prove they deserve to be put on. From the backpacker stuttering beat of "Higher Knowledge," by Virtual, to the club cut "What!," by Infinite Prince, most of the bases are covered. Equally enjoyable is Sureloc's melancholy look back at his youth, "Growing Up." Thai displays what may be the tightest and most complete mic skills of any MC featured here on "Together We Rise," though his half-sung chorus falls short of catchy.
While this album is a success ideologically, it ultimately falls a bit short in the music sense. It is truly a sign of what's right about hip hop—and humanity in general—that FD is able to put together this compilation in efforts to promote Asian-American rap artists. It's an admirable attempt and hopefully speaks volumes for what is to come in hip hop music in contrast to so much bitching and hating. However, the problem here is, of course, that some of the featured artists might not otherwise warrant the opportunity. The few aforementioned artists distinguish themselves nicely with either content or delivery—or both. Many of the others cannot do this as readily and thus get lost in the shuffle.
It's hard to hate on an ambitious project like this one which was obviously undertaken with only the best of intentions. Unfortunately, effort and heart can't straight replace skills. Let's face it: Haters will hate. But the optimists need to look no further than FD's compilation for something positive to hang their hats on. Not everyone will like it, but all should respect it.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 23, 2003