The Tranformers and Hip-Hop seem to go hand in hand. From scratches being named after the cartoon to the infinite number of times a rapper has claimed to "transform like Optimus Prime," it's amazing how a cartoon about robots has managed to mesh with the music of an inner-city culture. Several Active Minds (SAM) is no different as they take on the role of the Constructicons on their release "Constructicon Mathematics." While I too grew up watching The Transformers, I had to do some research to get the whole story behind the Constructicons. My venture into the world of The Transformers took me to a world of obsessed fans who detailed every event of the program and proposed theories on the origins of different robots. Being the type of kid who watched the show for the cool robots, I'll opt to give you the simplest explanation. Constructicons were bad guys, they came from the future, and they had beef with the Dinobots. The only way I can see this relating to SAM is that maybe they see themselves as futuristic rappers who are seen as bad guys because they are trying to go against the status quo. I guess those rappers engrained in "old ways" could be considered the Dinobots being fought by SAM. Either way, whether taking on the form of Constructicons or regular human beings, SAM still has a long way to go before they can defeat even the weakest Dinobot.
The album starts off appropriately with an instrumental intro consisting if different samples from the show blended in, but what should have been a short intro goes on for over three minutes. Thankfully the rest of the production on the album is pretty solid, allowing you to overlook the annoying intro. From the name of their record label, it can be presumed that SAM's production is loop-based. The simple piano loop on "1st Duel" sounds good and gives the track a Rza-esque feel to it. The rest of the album follows the same formula with hard hitting, bass heavy drum playing lead and simple loops in the background. There are a few subpar tracks, and toward the end of the album the songs tend to flow into each other, but otherwise the music is the best thing about "Constructicon Mathematics." That is not to say that the production is stellar, in the end it is pretty average. The old school approach to beat making sounds fresh at times, but it's nothing innovative or even catchy.
When the emcees enter the picture, "Constructicon Mathematics" goes from average to just plain bad. There are some moments when the group shows some potential, but overall the crew fumbles the ball when it comes to rapping. Dume 41, the group's beatmaker, also turns out to be the most talented emcee. Though his flow could use some work, overall he does a decent job. "Drinks in Medina" is the best example of Dume putting together a solid song and pretty good hook. His style actually closely resembles the muddled flow of MF Doom, though Dume's mastery of the art is ages behind. The other emcees clearly need more practice before attempting to conquer the world. Their flows are full of inaudible words and off-beat cadences that make the lyrics almost impossible to decipher. When you do manage to catch what they are saying it tends to be so abstract that only they know what they mean. I understand this is a concept album in a way, but the subject matter only further discourages anyone from listening long enough to understand the verses. The other main problem is that the emcees' voices trail off constantly when they flow. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the quality of the recording or the emcees themselves, but the vocals would have sounded a lot better had they been recorded at a consistent volume.
"Constructicon Mathematics" can't really be recommended at this point. There is potential for the group as they can definitely be creative and have the rudimentary elements of rapping down. But until the emcees step their game up, Several Active Minds is a group better left alone.
Music Vibes: 5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 2 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 3.5 of 10
Originally posted: April 12, 2005