The latest from the Houston rap collective, Infamous Playa Family, is the follow up to 2007's first edition of "La Costra Nostra," which can be found on websites that specialize in independent releases. The material created a fan base for the group, thanks to some typically thumping Southern beats mainly supplied by Mario Ayala. The acronym of I.P.F. has a double meaning of "Independence. Power. Freedom." This is an empowering idea that is unfortunately not often reflected in this type of music. Further, they manage to differentiate themselves from the norm in many ways, making this release worth a look.
"Reasons" kicks off the album with snaps and a highly digitized club sound. Emcees Big Coon, who has perhaps the most ignorant name in the rap game, and Lil' Byrd offer up their verses, but the lyrical display is not the awe-inspiring material you would expect to open an album. Specifically listening to Byrd's offering, the audience will notice a lazy flow full of short bars like "Here, a young fly cat/Aristocrat/Get your bitch high like an aphrodisiac/Bend over, hit it from the back." This is minor-league rhyming.
Luckily, as the album begins unveiling itself, the songs seem to be more fully fleshed out in terms of all of the essential elements of making a likable track: flow, lyrics, concepts and hooks. "Paid" featuring the late Big Hawk is a good start, but the first truly radio-worthy track is "Caliente" starring Carolyn and Low-G. Carolyn actually sounds like a Latina version of Britney Spears when she croons the hook. Then, Low-G attacks the beat with some Spanish lyricism that matches the songs namesake.
Early indications of the album is that it offers nothing but party tracks, but "Promise That" brings to the table a more subdued track about the hardships about the struggles of overcoming the ghetto life which brings to light the true notion, "Just stay focused and keep your eyes open, because tomorrow brings another day for us to get paid." The song does not only express the desire for monetary accomplishments, as it also focuses on the importance of protecting and caring for your family. It is an effective effort that keeps the album on the right track.
The creativity of the production continues to shine through on "Guzzle Down Sweets" that samples Willy Wonka's oompa loompa song. Again, the Infamous Playa Family does not match the combined coolness and hilariousness of the beat. There are a few references therein that indicate that the "sweets" they refer to may be a bevy of illegal narcotics. There are other times that the wide variety, sonically speaking, overmatches the emcees, like on the space-aged "Even Today."
The IPF save one of the best for last with the cartoonish "Don't Step" that features Mario Andretti, Xplicit and Big Ken. Unsurprisingly, the cut is about not stepping to them. However, the unpredictability comes in the bouncy backdrop and clever one-liners.
Attempting to create a movement, as the Infamous Playa Family intend, is a very difficult thing to do in a rap game that has seemingly been hashed and re-hashed time and time again, yet, refreshingly "La Costra Nostra II" brings a group of artists together that try to bring something new, with some success. The narrative does not entirely support the "Independence Power Freedom" idea throughout, as some of the subject matter is rather mundane. Still, while not quite as sharp at part I, check out the new edition of IPF's "La Costra Nostra" for its quality production and the wide array of Houston's rap talent whom make their impression.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 30, 2008