There is definitely a war against Hip-Hop. Politicians hate the messages that this brand of urban music promotes, while (to be fair) they're extremely ignorant about the art form. There are an abundance of soldiers on the frontline that wish to protect the music that is important to them, like U-Fam, consisting of indie emcees; Insight, Cloke N' Dagha, Prime Suspects, Blak Madeen, Powerz Boof, Sham Ra, among others. "The War On Hip-Hop" is one of those releases where you realize somewhere along the line that they are serious about the love of music and that they care about their stature in the community.
"Malcolm Speaks" embodies the spirit of the album as it presents a politically charged image. The song exemplifies true school Hip-Hop music, which embraces the African American roots of rap. The 1st official beat has an epic sound to it, but is really strengthened by a sample of Malcolm himself, rather emphatically speaking, "We want peace, we want justice, we want we respect, we want to carry ourselves with dignity..." Clearly, The Prime Suspects who headline this track take the great black leader's words to heart. Al-Jabra raps the first bar which sets the tone of the album when he spits, "I question Bob Marley's death and Marcus Garvey's arrest." The questioning of these matters was similarly, and rather ironically, brought to light on Cassidy's "The Message". That is what history is really about, though, because if it is written by the 'winners', then there must be completely different stories out there from those who are demoralized by them. The song culminates with several children profoundly stating "I'm Malcolm X!", as there is obviously a strong afro-centric connectivity to the strength of his words.
Meanwhile, the following song, "Bring the Noise", offers a stronger focus on the importance of rap music as an art-form as opposed to its deeper social context. The boom bap beat is sure to ignite a spark into long-time fans of rap. Again, the reason for the track is most easily recognized by the vocal sample producer NME-REK gathers of KRS-One which concludes it with meaning, "Our elements, which are: breakin', emceeing, graffitti art, Deejaying, beat-boxing, street fashion, street language, street knowledge and street entrepreneurialism, trade and business. That's the hip-hop that we're about."
Though the core group of emcees that represent the U-Fam hold their own, the real highlights come with the guest spots, which include; Lord Jamar (of Brand Nubian), Just-Ice, Witchdoctor (of Dungeon Family) and U-God (of Wu-Tang Clan). Each given star come correct in his own individual way. For instance, Just-Ice brings a slick old-school style with quality one-liners, whereas Witchdoctor offers an extremely fitting subdued verse with some intricate lyricism, "You see I need my pockets deeper than the ocean floor/have a whale of a time," followed closely by, "So we gotta be like salmon/strategic like the Tuskegee airmen/mission accomplished." Like any Witchdoctor material, you will either love it or just not get it. Ultimately, the fans that this CD is marketed towards will buy this on the merit of these featured artists and they will not be disappointed by the output. U-God, who has been on a roll as of late with a good showing on the mega-release "8 Diagrams", is given the best pure beat compliments of NME-REK again and he flips his joint into one of the very best on the LP.
The U-Fam family is chock full of capable poets. Even when there are missteps like "Heartless" starring a guy with an extremely suspect name, Jizz Unique, the culprit usually makes up for it on their next go. For instance, "Pray for Me" that shows up only 3 songs after his introduction is far more riveting. Without any one really taking the bulk majority of the work on the disc, there are no standouts, especially since most of the cuts are simply solid, while few really standout as superior. Another positive note is that there are few moments that stray from the positive nature of the album and it does not really feel like a compilation of a ton of emcee's, since they all have a common voice. "Holdin'" is on the borderline, because the narrative takes us on a journey of a hustler 'holding on'. However, the theme of resilience is an important one that is realized in many ways, like on the joint in question.
Therefore, if you go cop "The War On Hip-Hop", you will get a lot of strong songs, but there might not be a whole lot that'll have you coming back over and over again, because there is not a lot of longevity in material that is moderately good. Nonetheless, in this political war against Hip-Hop, soldiers are getting in line to protect the art. The U-Fam group lines up as more than just soldiers after all, because they have their own voice in this war, each track being a battle.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: December 4, 2007