The Triple Playaz :: Escape From The Wasteland ::
as reviewed by Alex Sheremet

Although I expected trash, I ended up with a flawed gem. It ain't my acedia, though - it's just that The Triple Playaz are an unknown group with a misleadingly atrocious first track. "Escape" opens with sirens, a threat of Armageddon, and a specious, whitish voice meant to calm. After dozens of movies, songs, and every other corner of pop culture imitating this messy abattoir, you'd think the set-up a bit overdone. It doesn't discourage Triple Playaz, however, who at least daub the hackneyed back story with smooth, solid flows, the first rapper reminiscent of Esoteric:

"Center Street was a ghost town
All you could hear was the sirens
Not a living soul around
The streets were littered with bodies
in positions like pilates..."

Lyrically, there isn't much on this track. Note the clichés - "ghost town," the entire second line, the entire third line, and so on, until you hit a puerile simile at the end. The content is mostly political, but unoriginal, nor stimulating. The delivery balances some of this out, but, musically, the sirens continue, while a "dark" keyboard does nothing unconventional, nor unexpected. It's polished, but not necessarily good.

But that's as bad as it gets. I'll repeat - the album is a flawed little gem. "Little" because it's not very deep, "flawed" because whatever it does well, could have been done better. The magic is in the flows and chemistry of the rappers, and, occasionally, some excellent production. Most of the performances are damn polished, even if the lyrics aren't. I'll reveal my own picks later. In the meantime, "Flossohard," thankfully, doesn't continue the above concept, and is thus significantly better. A second rapper throws a good flow, while the production is tinged with humor. Lyrically, it's funny, and Triple Playaz are obviously better at this than political allegory, although, with time, I suspect they could tackle any subject.

"Family Man" plays off the title as the protagonist systematically copulates with a girl, her sister, and their mother, then returns to his "family life." Musically, the repetitive bass and electronic sounds do little except propel the mood, but, overall, the track works. Its end, as well as "Trick Tick Bitches," shows how versatile the rappers' voices are: they sing, gruff, and jump around the beat, and do everything quite well. But, they aim to make up for a lack of depth - it's entertaining, and good from a purely technical standpoint, but that's all as far as art goes. Tracks like "Coppers," for example, aren't stippled with bathos, but reveal little about the subject, and say nothing left unsaid before. It's a classic problem in hip-hop, and perhaps music in general: Ideas abound, but they're rarely stimulating.

But, these problems tend to disappear as the album progresses. In fact, I'd say there are violations of the above precept. "Placebo" takes drugs, and, with a nice touch of hyperbole, calls them placebos - weed, Zoloft, or whatever else, which may not be deep, but at least attempts to subvert expectations, and succeeds. A guitar at the end makes the track sound like a trip suddenly gone bad, another good touch. "Loyal Citizens" opens with T.S. Eliot reading his most famous lines, and, production-wise, is one of the best things here. A organ keyboard offers variety, and the track switches up by the middle, and the flows impress once again. The political commentary isn't memorable, but the track is. Similarly, "Juicy Fruit" has one of the best performances I've heard in a while in the first verse - not that Lil' Wayne "spontaneity" (read: dull, pointless drug-vocals), but great negotiation with the beat, both riding and violating it. The subject is superfluous.

At 19 tracks, I don't understand why artists feel the need to bloat an album. I understand the desire to sell, but, in art, quality trumps sales, and a good album can do better by word of mouth than an uneven attempt. Look at the score below. It's a solid 8, which is a first for me. But, it's also a lukewarm 8 - The Triple Playaz needed to trim this by 5-6 tracks, and subtract the inane, space-sucking "wasteland" idea. This intellectual edge does little, since the album can stand without it. Regardless, they're quite talented, and on to something here.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: May 12, 2009