Alltruisms :: Clusterbombs :: Gravel Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"My name is Alltruisms, that's a belief behind an idea
The reason why I chose to be called by it
Is because I'm a fan of the concept, too good for its own sake
Regardless what it will or won't make me
I faithfully take this ache and pain relief medication
Wash it down with a fifth of belief that people'll get it
Swallowin write the followin, completin unedited works
That keep gettin beatin and left for dead and it hurts
But for better or worse, actions to ashes, deeds to dust it's true
What I say don't mean as much as what I do"

If you sliced a cross section of underground rap that falls somewhere between naively optimistic and lyrically advanced, El-P and Sage Francis would be nearest to the center and artists like Alltruisms and Elemental Zazen would be the outermost rings. That's not to say the newest generation is the furthest from the center of dope though - in fact it's precisely the opposite. The previous generations of hip-hoppers derided as backpackers and nerds are the old growth, and a whole new era of MC's are growing up around them adding layers of beauty and complexity never seen before. While Alltruisms is a relatively new name even amongst the outer layers, it's clear from the track "A Lightyear Away" quoted above that he has the soul of an old poet deep inside him.

Like most hip-hop CD's sent to music reviewers these days Alltruism's "Clusterbombs" comes with a press release that makes him sound like the second coming of Rakim and Ras Kass rolled into one. Here's a choice excerpt: "The album distills 16 fully-realized tracks into a 45-minute journey, guided by a man of our times, who is most of all a traveler. He is like the rest of us - politically aware, but faced with more immediate job problems, car problems and girl problems, getting by with black humor." The hype is entirely unnecessary in Alltruisms' case, as his lyrical delivery and the selection of rugged beats that he flows over speak for themselves. Take "Nine-Digit #" for example, a gritty and angry diatribe over a plucky Kaz1 guitar melody, the kind of track one could mistake for the political rantings of Immortal Technique.

"They call it Homeland Insecurity, see no man is completely safe
They put Japs in camps, blamed Spain when the Maine sank a hundred years ago
Here we go again we need smelling salts
History's a cell and call well hang it up now
Like blacks in trees in the South to Jim Crow
Now the war's over class AND skintone"

Alltruisms is not short on things to say or the intent to say them, although he does occasionally fall into the trap Talib Kweli did in his early days of trying to fit more words into a bar than there is really room for. Still the diction is crisp and the vocal tone is not unpleasant. The songs may be borderline to nerdy in their approach but it's the construction of the songs that keep Alltruisms solidly grounded in hip-hop instead of wandering off into the land of open mic night at the coffeehouse. K-Kruz gives Alltruisms the sword and shield musically to be a "Knight in Shining Armor" with the kind of track Vinnie Paz or Esoteric would be proud to rip. "Oh (Epilogue)" is almost too short to be a song, but Earmint's dirty dusted production matches perfectly with All's harrowing portrayal of fear that he might have some nasty venereal disease. Not every song is deadly serious though - "Jalopy" is a tongue-in-cheek Kaz1 beat paying tribute to the kind of busted Toyota Celicas that most of us drive. "I call her Alice, or Mario Kart, or GOD DAMN IT BITCH when she won't start!"

With a sense of humor, a mind for mad dope writtens, and an all-star crew of hip-hop beatsmiths ranging DJ PRZM (R.I.P.) to 5th Element, Alltruisms has all the tools he needs to succeed on "Clusterbombs" with or without the glowing press release his record label threw into the package. The real question about Alltruisms' first major album is not WHETHER he'll be a star in the underground, but how long it will take before people catch on to his steelo. Somewhere between the overdone hype and the understandable skepticism of the new and unproven MC is the chance for one of the "Clusterbombs" that Alltruisms drops to make a big impact on hip-hop.

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

Originally posted: June 10, 2008