There is a skit in the middle of "Aggressive Soul" called "Nothing On A Track." Over a generic synth beat, the Vocoder-filtered rappers repeat "I can make a million with nothing on a track." The skit showcases the Texan duo's sense of humor, and their sense of disgust at the state of mainstream hip hop. Their message is clear: hip hop better step its game up.
Crew54 don't waste a lot of time whining about the state of hip hop, though. They are too busy proving by their example that the genre is meant for bigger and better things than ringtones and dance fads. MCs G-Christ and Master Of Self got together with the goal of making feel-good music, and they succeed on "Aggressive Soul." The album name perfectly captures the mood of the disc – soulful and aggressive, banging and smooth.
Like Little Brother, Crew54 are a Southern duo who don't immediately sound like they are from the dirty south. There are no rhymes about grills, candy paint, syrup or hoes, and their beats don't rely on Triggerman or synths. Instead, their production is dripping in soul, with beats provided by King Verse, Remax, Qentic Storm, Zaire, Reeplay, Keelay, Derelict, Eska hines, Alpha 20/20, and Mike & Ike. The beats range from the seventies strings of "Dreams" and "Loyalty" to the mellow R & B of "The Way It Is" to more banging tracks like "Titan" and "Dirty Dirty."
Their lyrics balance out their Texas drawls with the kind of thoughtful lyricism that is more common in the Northeast than below the Mason-Dixon line. On "The Way It Is," G-Christ challenges the scapegoating of hip hop:
"You hear about my generation all the time
Talking to me like I started black-on-black crime
But we've been divided since slavery
Niggas in the house, niggas in the field
That's how it came to be
Our culture's been split down the middle
It's hard to unite when your foundation's brittle"
On "Back At It" M.O.S. gives some insights into the struggles of an aspiring rapper, along with an excellent dis to haters:
"We them brothers on the brink
We them niggas on the verge
A favorite rapper's favorite rapper
That nobody's heard
On a myspace page acting like we 'bout to blow
When it's hard as hell to even get somebody at a show
Dropped a classic on my own
Well, I thought it was a hit
And the twelve folks that downloaded it said it was the shit
Then I linked with G-Christ niggas thought we was crazy
When we banged them on the head with "Beaters and Babies"
When we started getting love, niggas started misbehaving
Acting like we played the game by cheating and point-shaving
Well it's ok, nigga, do what you do
If I was wack as fuck, I'd be mad at us too"
Throughout "Aggressive Soul," Crew54 displays humor, humility, and positivity, three traits that are all too rare in hip hop. They define their sound as "feel-good music," and it definitely makes you feel good. Both their beats and lyrics are hard-hitting and uplifting, combining a positive message with some classic boom-bap. This is a great album, and I'm looking forward to this duo's future projects.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 22, 2008