Virtuoso :: Evolution of the Torturer :: Omnipotent/Raptivism Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Boston's hip-hop scene is at times as insular as it is impressive. As dope as artists like Akrobatik and Esoteric are, it's often hard for them to get the recognition and acclaim they are due not only outside New England but in the hip-hop world at large. It no doubt rubs some people there the wrong way that the most successful local artist is Guru, considering he didn't blow up as part of GangStarr until he moved to New York City and adopted it as his new home. Nevertheless local rappers are still trying hard to overcome the odds and get their shit over on a massiave scale, and Virtuoso is one of those rappers constantly on the threshold of greater recognition.

"Now since I hit 21 life's gotten funny son
Wherever the money come that's where all the honies run
Nobody is friends and if they are it's probably pretend
Apply for some ends but cash cats body they men"

Anybody who titles his album "Evolution of the Torturer" is on some serious shit, and Virtuoso is no exception. As the lyrics to "Devilish" illustrate, Virt fews the world around him with a constantly suspicious eye; wary not only of the betrayals a hip-hop artist can experience in the music business but that a man can experience just trying to survive day to day. Perhaps it's no surprise then that "Evolution of the Torturer" is released on his own label Omnipotent Records or that the distributor is Raptivism. It should be no surprise that he chose other independent artists like fellow Boston native Akrobatik to guest on songs like "Military Intelligence." What might catch you off guard is that Virt features a GERMAN rapper on the album - Torch appears on the song "Epilogue." While I can't make out a word of German he seems to be ripping shit, and there's little doubt the deep-voiced Virtuoso is spitting hotness on the rest of these tracks. Take "The Reaper" for example:

"Still I wonder why, if we can laugh and cry
Get our eye past the lie, why do we have to die?
Because there's two sides to life, the dark and light
Pray that your God don't stop your heart tonight
Since I was a toddler I'd ask my father
If we're all gonna die, why do we bother?
Tryin to go farther, than the last martyr
Explorin more of the earth than man has charted
It gets harder every day just for starters
The greedy don't barter they just steal and starve ya
Thank God I, crank hits like Gary Carter
or Tim McCarver and learned I gotta think smarter
My mind tends to be grim like Clive Barker"

Virtuoso may read like a depressing lyricist, but his dark moody tracks tend to have the opposite effect. They burrow deep into your soul and unleash your pent up frustrations. Virt's cynical take on life is in fact a refreshing reality check on a world of fradulent bling bling and gun clap nonsense, and it's backed up by beats from Panik, Insight, Jaz-O and Beyonder among others. At fourteen tracks long with no filler this album seems to fly by fast, but "Evolution of the Torturer" will demand repeat replay. Highly recommended tracks include "War of the Masses" featuring Del the Funky Homosapien and the edgy "Crematorium." If you like your hip-hop like I like my chocolate - dark and slightly bitter - "Evolution of the Torturer" will fit your sweet tooth nicely and won't leave you with a flavor hangover like Necro's corpse raping raps.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: October 25, 2005