All Natural's latest release, The Primeridian's "Da All Nighta", sticks to the label's familiar, time-tested recipe: smart, savvy, and soulful. In this follow-up to their debut, 2001's "I'll Meet You in Greenwich", the Windy City duo achieves a refreshing level of intelligence and maturity. "Grown-ass man music", if you will. And while they might have aged a little TOO well, their unique style is a respectable change of pace from today's overdone, plastic hip-hop scene.
The Primeridan, comprised of double-threat emcee/producers Jaime Roundtree (Tree the Scarecrow) and Simeon Viltz (See-Me-On aka V), pay their respects to the lost art of musicianship, injecting their own live instrumentation into the usual production techniques. This gives the album an organic feel that's palpable throughout.
To go along with the jazzy beats are conscious rhymes, as evident in the album's single "Trumpets of Zion":
"We was given a vision
to see the forbidden rhythm
that's hidden within the image
No mission is too impossible
Man we wicked, phenomenally gifted with addiction
You ain't ready for this prescription
While we're in by this position
Who suffers from a condition of self-inflicted ass kicking?
Are you ass kissing?
All I ask is that you listening
Take up some activism so we can crash the system"
And if you think these guys are all brains and no brawn, they muscle out weak emcees on "Yeah Yeah We Know":
"Within the balance of existence, I tend to keep my distance from the rest
'cause three's a crowd and when you're too close for comfort...
I opened your mind only to find that it was vacant
Your third eye's blind and butt naked
I couldn't take it, I built my penthouse in the basement
So now I pound the pavement, exposing all y'all underground double agents
Y'all havin' trouble with your payments
Your dues is late, choose your fate
Your heavy rotation is losing weight, excuse the hate
But I'm a saltwater shark, devouring you dark fish that bark
with one-track minds, see I got 48 tracks combined
You'll never find my lane
Ya wanna be smartass? Sit on your brain!
Get on my train, I'm engineering
I'm passing through to receivers while you're interfering
See, when I touch down
I crush pounds of mics
I'm a Williy Wonka jawbreaker, who wanna bite?
Now all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth
I'll open up a can of whoop-ass, who want beef?"
That kind of bravado would make Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson jealous. So now you kinda see what we're dealing with. Two emcees talented enough to feed your brain or eat up your favorite emcee. From beginning to end, the duo brings the lyrical pain.
But as I alluded to in the intro, the foremost flaw of "Da All Nighta" is that it may be too grown for its own good. You know how parents always warn their kids about growing up too fast? You know why? Because old people are boring. They know it, we know it. That doesn't mean they aren't intelligent or even cool, but it does mean that over time they've become comfortable in their own shoes. "Comfortable" is a trait meant for "Matlock" and PBS, not necessarily hip-hop music. "Da All Nighta" begins to feel like a lecture from mama; sure it's filled with valuable knowledge, but after 20 minutes, you're not tryin' to hear it anymore. Listeners start getting numb to it, which is unfortunate because Primeridian has a lot of heavy stuff to say. The addition of a few riskier joints and reduction of the playlist to say 14 or 15 tracks (instead of 19) would've helped maintain attention.
Overall, however, "Da All Nighta" is a winner on many fronts. It proves that real musicianship has a place in hip-hop and intelligent emcees can thrive in a market of gun toting, booty-shakin', and bling-blingin'. But the key lesson here is "moderation in everything". Remember what Jay-Z said: "dumb down for dollars". The Primeridian are just a few tweaks away from having something truly exceptional.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 20, 2005