At first glance you might think this group is just another bunch of mediocre rappers who try to imitate those who've had success with thug appeal in the past. Blaze It Up Mafia? Welcome to the Block? It all sounds so familiar that you might think it's safer just to cop the latest State Property of 3-6 Mafia album. However, behind every book cover there's a different story to be told and it's up to you to decide whether or not it's worth reading.
The album kicks off with the now infamous piano keys as the beat from 2Pac's "Amibitionz Az a Ridah" comes pounding through. Although they rep Akron, Ohio, of Lebron James fame, their sound is drenched in east-coast style. When it's combined with this west coast instrumental it creates a fresh energy that by no means overshadows Pac's, but does provide a nice alternative if you've heard the original as many times as I have.
"My Shoes" samples the smooth Isaac Hayes joint "Walk on By," that you'll no doubt recognize if you've ever seen the movie "Dead Presidents." The soulful, rolling strings provide Fa-Ness the proper canvas to paint reflections of a coming-to-age street tale. His words are coated thick with emotion as he reveals more about the man behind the mic:
"I stare at the stars, lookin' at light
Knowin' my brother behind bars, lookin' at life
Due to pressure we smoke ‘dro, some take Vicatin
And that's only time we feel we had a right to grin
The morning is near, we waitin' for the nights to end"
They're back with the classic samples on "You Don't Have to Hate" which laces the Jackon Five's "ABC" with a hip-hop beat. Truer to the original than the Jay-z and Kanye hook-up, it's catchy even if you don't agree with the tampering of such artifacts.
Tracks like "The Comeback" and "Dirty Money" prove that these guys are capable of providing the energy that gets heads shaking and hands in the air.
Although they have all of these positive aspects on the album, there are some less than extraordinary points throughout. While they do show the personality and talent that could spread the gap between them and other similar groups, too much is focused on the same old subjects using the same old words. There are times when you could literally cut out their verses and paste in the lyrics of a handful of other rappers without losing a step. One example of this is the closing track to the Alchemist/Jadakiss instrumental for "We Gone Make It." L-Dro comes blazing through with fire in his voice, unfortunately the lyrics aren't that hot anymore; after having heard the same verse from every other rapper:
Smoke you, you bitch ass nigga
Let the Desert Eagle stroke you, you bitch ass nigga
Act like you can't hear me
They'll find you in a trash bag floating in Lake Erie
Hope you got your scuba gear bitch
I got my Ruger here bitch
And please believe that we gone make it
If not fuck it we gone take it
Ya'll niggas is basic
I let these burners give you a facelift"
Different singer, same old song.
Despite these shortcomings, overall, this was a solid release from Major Hustle Entertainment. While it'd be nice to see more lyrical fluctuation, it's undeniable that when people are raised under similar circumstances, they're going to talk about similar things. And you can't fault anyone for it, that's just the way it is. This album displays a group of guys telling their story, welcoming you to their block. In the end, it's clear that their block is no different than the run-down blocks of so many others that have tried to make it through the struggle to the rap game. It's a disturbing problem that's been around the black community for way too long. Blaze It Up Mafia is simple letting people know it's still going on even in tiny cities like Akron, Ohio. And that's enough reason in itself to give their story a chance.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: February 15, 2005