In a time of a burgeoning underground hip-hop movement and an increasing popularity mainstream distaste, some of indie rap's biggest fans have created a romanticized view of the music. The MC's should all be battle tested, introspective, and equipped with only the dopest rhyme scheme and most clever wordplay. The producers should be prodigies of several genres (jazz, rock) and simply choose hip-hop because it's the coolest. In this time of wishful idealism where we're constantly being told to "take it back to the way it used to be," it seems that the current crops of emo-rapping, concept albums, and poetic battle MC's have too often been void of one of hip-hop's main missions: to move the crowd. To get the party started. Lately these fun-loving jams have been unjustly lumped into the "bling" category and deemed useless by many of the underground faithful.
"When do you know hip-hop is real?
Here's the response: by how many heads beat bop"
This quote from Ziz's "Body Rock (Y'all)" sums it up. The song is an upbeat party joint that has some Latino spice, from the Latino rapper, and it would no doubt get bodies rocking. His new album "Man-Brook-Phil," meaning the obvious Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philly, captures the essence of feel-good hip-hop.
"Pen and Paper" feat. Lucinda Estrada is a soothing song that would be the perfect soundtrack for a summer ride under the stars. His style falls somewhere in-between the two poles of underground and mainstream. He doesn't rap about money and cars and he strays from too much battle raps. The subjects are easy-going, down to earth, and deal with real life situations.
Ziz triumphantly passes the feel-good test but if he watched the underground fanatics analyze his MC talent, he'd be feeling a little different. His rhymes can become simplistic to the point where some whole verses can be categorized as cliché and his flow could use a good tightening up. Even though this album brings a little soul from hip-hop's 2nd Golden Age, it ain't like there weren't any mediocre rappers in '94. On the bright side, most of his MC glitches sound like the result of a simple lack of experience. These things aren't permanent weaknesses and could easily be fixed by the next album. This is a worthy effort to bring hip-hop back to its former glory. There are songs that give you similar vibes as classics like "Regulators" (Pen & Paper), "To Live & Die in L.A." (It's All Good) or "I Gotta Man" (Beautiful Ways). If you're a fan of old school hip-hop then Ziz provides a worthy arrangement of songs and vibes that overshadow what he lacks as an MC and if you like straight raw or lyrical albums then this one isn't for you.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 DVD Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 28, 2005