"On yo' block you prolly had a Fat Pat or Tupac
Or Big Pun, or B.I., ya homeboys from knee-high" – Scarface
Scarface's words definitely hold true for 'hoods across America as many talented emcees across the country have come and gone before they had the chance to spread to larger audiences. Even in the cases where these revered local emcees are alive and well, the lack of exposure they get leaves them figuratively dead to the world. K-Rino falls into this category because even though he's as talented an emcee as any, his talent has been confined to local success and a small cult following for well over 20 years. Hopefully things will change for the Houston native as the Texas rap scene increasingly gains national attention. For now though, albums like 2004's "The Hitt List," 2005's "Fear No Evil," and his soon to be re-released catalog of older albums continue to fly under the radar of most rap fans.
"The Hitt List" is not something you're likely to find on a Top 40 charts, instead the title more aptly describes the tracks K-Rino murders on the album. The "Intro" is a full song in itself with K-Rino and 5 of his SouthPark Coalition emcees ripping a minimalist beat for 5 minutes straight. "Homeboys" follows as K-Rino challenges those that claim to be down with him to truly be his homeboys through thick and thin. While it serves as a cautionary tale about back-stabbers and liars, K-Rino's thought-provoking questions also highlight what a homeboy is supposed to be all about. "Lyrical Grind" is next and it features fellow Houston emcee Z-Ro. Both drop ill verses reflecting their constant hustle in and out of the rap game. The sung hook and the eerie piano keys and string stabs make for possibly the album's strongest track. "Doin' Bad" is an inspirational song where K-Rino's maturity shines brightly as he reflects not only on the bad aspects of the 'hood, but the resilient spirit of hope that survives among even the bleakest of environments.
"Free" is a thought-provoking track that explores the sometimes conflicting notions of death as K-Rino takes on the role of a dead man, who though he has lost his life has gained the freedom he never had struggling through life. "Street Corner Flows" is a straight battle track with K-Rino dropping punchlines like:
"My raps is like crack, against the law
Young players get locked away just for having Rino inside the car
I make a time machine and blast off
Go to the future and catch your grandkids rapping and bump they ass off"
"Candy" uses the same concept as K-Rino used on "Cars" and "Cartoons" where he spits using various brand names associated with each topic. The track has its appeal, but may be the album's only suspect track as the connection between Rino's rhymes and the candy bar names he uses is weak at times. "Heaven On Earth (H.O.E.)" makes a run for the best track on the album, despite the overused sample on the beat. K-Rino takes on the difficult task of addressing the treatment on women in Hip-Hop by redefining the oft-used word "hoe" as an abbreviation for "Heaven On Earth:"
"Your life story got to be one developed in stages
y'all can't write the same book if you on 2 different pages
Understand it ain't about material stuff
If you don't stimulate her mind then the world ain't enough
She down to earth but if im in the wrong quick to get brave
Knowing how to be submissive without being a slave
Consolation that I'm needing when she feeding my soul
Cast my words into the universe and let them unfold
Anything I'm tryna get done she ready to roll
The most beautiful vision 2 eyes could ever behold
Knowing she will be the one from the second we meet
I strive to elevate and place the universe at her feet
Everyday is mothers day so don't ever forget it
Tryna keep it real and do better by staying committed
From body, soul to mind she Devine by design
Just to keep her safe I'm down to place my life on the line"
"Peace Through War" follows, and despite its somewhat violent topic matter, still manages to address many of the dilemmas faced by K-Rino as he tries to balance his life between the streets and his own efforts to do right. "Hitt List" reunites K-Rino with long time associate and horror-core rap pioneer Ganxsta Nip. Nip comes through in top form, though his verse is not for the faint of heart.
Though the album is already half done, K-Rino has still yet to miss a step and the remaining 7 tracks are equally dope. "Talk Show" is a clever concept as Rino walks a coach potato through Houston neighborhoods, both Black and White, explaining how there's more talk show drama around him than on the television. Trae of the Guerilla Maab stops by for the hyped up "How You Wanna Handle This." "Driving Away" could actually be a candidate for radio play as K-Rino addresses the situations where attempts at passenger-side pimping are thwarted by cock-blocking drivers. The album ends with "Last Days," which features the odd combination of Ganxsta Nip and an actual Minister as Rino describes his version of the last days.
K-Rino is really one of the most well-rounded emcees in the game, dead or alive. His clever punchlines would be enough to keep any hip-hop fan entertained, but to this he adds enough street savvy to show the world Rino is no punk. Further, Rino manages to balance his gritty roots with the maturity and advice only a man of his experience could provide. From tearing up the mic in a battle to addressing the issues and dilemmas growing up in the 'hood causes , K-Rino manages to entertain and captivate audiences no matter what his subject matter. His concepts are fresh, his lyrics are dope, and his intentions are good. The only thing K-Rino is missing is a larger fan base, a problem which will hopefully be alleviated at least a small amount after this review.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 14, 2005