The phrase "NO HOOKS" brings back both good and bad memories - the former being the Shaquille O'Neal song featuring Method Man and RZA, the latter being nearly ALL of Shaq-Fu's rap career. Ugh. Actually I'm not sure which was worse - Shaq's acting or Shaq's rapping, but that's besides the point. The press release for Arsun F!st's "Mood Points EP" touted the NO HOOKS concept and I admit it caught my eye, despite never having heard of this rapper anywhere. It probably doesn't hurt that said one-sheet also came from Domination Recordings, a label I can usually count on to not put out garbage shit. Recent well-received Domination releases include Saint's "About Time," Moka Only's "Vermillion and Eddie Meeks' "After This... I'll Holla (On Everything I Love)" among others. Domination has comfortably fallen into that Definitive Jux niche where the imprint doesn't GUARANTEE dopeness, but certainly gives you more cause to pick up a new album for $14.99 than most labels out there, where every rapper is trying to carbon copy the last one to hit it big on the pop charts.
"It took 17 minutes to create this song
I'm a spur of the moment dude with a lyrical bomb
You a lukewarm writer, with 18 excuses
Like 'I forgot my notebook, so I'll freestyle some bullshit'
We need some talent in here
Nigga talk about the same shit, but the fans don't seem to care
There's 19 different clones of Jay-Z
20 Lil Jons trying to snap and lean"
- Arsun F!st, "Muddy Math"
The good news is that checking out the latest Domination release won't even put a dent in your wallet. They're currently giving away the entire "Mood Points EP" FOR FREE on their website. No guarantees how long that link will last, but it was long enough for me to download a copy to review after reading the one-sheet, and still seems to be active as of the date this review is being published. I found myself drawn in right from the start of The Unknown and Mudd produced "Let Her Fly." Now this track actually DOES have a hook, which isn't bullshit given that the press sheet said Arsun would mix "the traditional with the abstract," so this song was just Arsun getting his "let's follow the rules" on. Rules don't define Arsun well though, as he crafts lyrics far outside the norm:
"Aiyyo cry me a river, build me a dream
Design me a life where my passion is king
Love is everything, conquer the evil in man
I walk with the balance of a ballerina stance
Snakecharmin these hoes, move up inside of they clothes
and get the cookies like dessert's on hold
Uhh, without a conscience I leave 'em exposed
Put a scar on they heart when they think about D'Angelo
Got a lil' bit - older, tidbit - wiser
Found myself strugglin, soul in the fire
Relationships were fucked up, girlfriends were distant
Communication my fault because I never chipped in"
Arsun's narrative takes you on a journey, first leading you to believe he's just another mack getting all the cooch he can, then turning introspective and questioning the damage so many one-night stands caused himself and others. F!st keeps it from getting too serious with punchlines like "I'm hardheaded like a white bigot" but still shows a willingness to keep it real beyond keeping it really cliche. Some tracks on "Mood Points" are really short, but take advantage of the limited time to pack a powerful musical and verbal punch. The Frank Costa produced "Only 1" definitely qualifies, where Arsun questions whether you need "5 mics to be considered hot" and notes he "became an MC to write the world a different chapter." The DJ Ragz laced "Lights Out" is also a dope short track, a cool mellow groove where F!st suggests that many artists need to "grow up" and stop hating on the next man for being lyrically nice. Arsun F!st can also flip a longer song nicely though, such as the Mudd produced "Muddy Math" quoted above or the double entendre joint "Moves-Meant" done up right by Tropical & Fatman.
"Mood Points" is a pleasant balance between short and long, avant garge and traditional, all stitched together with one common thread - Arsun F!st's insightful and pleasant lyricism. To be fair there are some who might find his vocals a little high-pitched and breathy, but those same people probably aren't feeling Talib Kweli, and he's the first person I can think of to compare Arsun to in tone. He's not necessarily a Kweli rhymewise, but he's far closer to it than 99 out of 100 rappers I've heard this year. It's somewhat amazing Domination is willing to give this album away for nothing, because even at a bargain price like $7.99 or $9.99 it still would have been a good investment to pick this one up. Arsun F!st is off to a very good start and shows an incredible potential for growth, and with even hotter beats could quickly become an underground superstar. Don't sleep on the free download and if the link expires see if they've put it up for retail sale.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: September 2, 2008