West coast hustle is epitomized by Mac & A.K. Hailing from East Palo Alto in the West Bay area of Northern California, the duo rose high enough on the national landscape to sign a deal with Tommy Boy Records. Unfortunately the label's only California success before or since has been Digital Underground, and nobody at Tommy Boy knew how to promote or release this hardcore team. Their album was shelved and the group severed ties with the label, going back to their street roots and underground fan base. Independently and off the mainstream radar, Mac & A.K. put out their "Money Rhyme$" album on E&K music and served up just what the Bay would want - fat round Yea-style beats and guest appearances by the likes of Above the Law, E-40 and Mac Mall.
Aiming to follow up on that success, Mac & A.K. have come back with another strong indie release - "Hustle Music Vol. 1." Once again, the album's guest list reads like a who's who of West underground thump. Young Noble from the Outlawz is on "Dirty Jersey 2 E.P.A." D-Moe and Sean T appear on "Real Live." Money Mont & G-Dub are on "California Lifestyle," and Lil Ric and Laroo appear on "Straight Hogz." For some people these names will ring bells, for others they might produce confusion, but make no mistake about it Mac & A.K. know their target audience and provide exactly what they would want to hear in their ear.
The duo rely strongly on the production skills of Mac a.k.a. Mac Pacino, who handles the entire album from start to finish sans one track. Fans of The Click, Too $hort and Tha Luniz should find themselves entirely at home in these beats. Lead single "Oh No!" is full of enough thump and twonk to shake fleas off dogs and rattle the shop windows at every hood liquor store. "Act a Fool" may be a cliched song title these days, but none bring it with as much floss as these West Bay hitters do. "Come My Way" is that curious West mixture of electronic sounds, hard bass and a smooth hook that sounds both vintage 80's and 21st century modern all at the same time. Who's that singer on the hook too? She's uncredited, but holds her own nicely. The oriental influence in the sound of "Pray 4 Me" is refreshing, and the G-Funk of "Real Things" featuring Mr. Kee is just as good as anything you'll hear from Warren G, Dr. Dre or Ice Cube.
It's perplexing when you think about it, that outside of 40 and $hort a lot of the Bay artists from Cali get no love nationally. Even when so-called underground hardcore anti-commercial artists like Aceyalone, Ras Kass and Del the Funky Homosapien get respected by the hip-hop mainstream and press, nobody except for Murder Dog magazine takes time to give their respects due to artists like Mac & A.K. Even RapReviews.com can be held at fault for sometimes focusing too much on things East of the Missouri river. Hopefully this review of Mac & A.K.'s "Hustle Music Vol. 1" is a step in the right direction, just as they are a step above a lot of their competitors from the area. The subject matter is perhaps typical Bay Area grind, but Mac & A.K. do it with music and lyrics that work and a style and finesse created from almost a decade's worth of dedication to the music. Like this reviewer you may find "Hustle Music Vol. 1" not only exceeds your expectations but is a pleasure to listen to time and time again.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: March 30, 2004