It's been more than a minute since the Cali Agents released "How the West Was One." In fact, it's been four years. As good as Rasco and Planet Asia were together on that seminal independent classical, they do far more work on their own. Rasco in particular is highly prolific, with at least a half-dozen releases under his belt since 1998. Asia takes a little more time to cultivate his rhymes, but has produced two solid albums in his own right: 2000's "The Last Stand" and 2004's impressive joint "The Grand Opening." Each can very fairly claim to have a cult following in underground rap, and for the most part they seem more than content to go their own way.
The Cali Agents "Head of the State" EP is as a result a rare and unique treasure, the kind of gem one would only EXPECT to unearth once every four years. You might want to find one more often than that, but even if you don't, it's worth the wait when one comes along. At just over thirty minutes long including the intro, "Head of the State" is not only worth the wait, it's worth the weight. Packed into that 30 minutes is some of the best beats and rhymes you're likely to hear, starting off with the very aptly named Vinroc produced "Sharp":
Rasco: "It's all good doe, we taught niggaz the game
Snapshots snatched out of the frame
Now we, back to claim and snatch a dame
Take her back to the crib and extract her brains
This is, rhymes and beats, it's time for heat
Fuck all these cats man it's, time to eat
I can, slice your beef, your price is cheap
Dudes is cupcakes man, they be nice and sweet"
Planet Asia: "We them artists from Cali who know
Who truly know how to spit and keep a crowd pumped when doin a show
But this time we got vest and guns, you ain't my homey and
don't make me show you 'How the West Was One'
I'm a block general but I done paid my dues
And since the 7th grade in school we've been wavin tools
Give a fuck how much dough you got, cause when I blow you niggaz'll know
And bet I still go to the block"
Complete with a hard rocking guitar backdrop and scratches by Brisk One on the hook, this is a song that's so good it's hard to resist the temptation to hit "repeat" insted of moving to the next joint. Then again, that describes every joint on this far-too-short EP. The lush symphonic backdrop and smooth flowing verbals on "Cali Nights," Brisk One's bumping 1200 Hobos production on "In the Zone," the Kanyeeze-esque musical vibes of "Rawrap" where Asia once again sounds eerily like GZA, and the other fresh joints from "Go Ladies" to the bonus track "Endless" are all nothing but heat. The scratched in hook of their finale sums up the album nicely: "five steps ahead of the best, and that's nothing." Indeed, if Rasco and Planet Asia worked together on a full-time basis, they'd own the musical and lyrical landscape like Kobe Bryant owns the paint. Great albums may be timeless, but great teams are not endless. Sooner or later they go their own way, to play their own game or form a new crew, and ball their way to the top for dolo. All that's left behind is albums like "Head of the State," where you can truly enjoy how great they were while together and hope that someday they might reunite to do it one more time.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 21, 2004