Whenever a multi-member hip-hop group bands together, there are going to be inherent, and often unfair, comparisons to elite collectives from the past such as the mighty dominant Wu-Tang Clan and The Juice Crew, respectively. Given that, the Sandpeople are at a distinct disadvantage set by a certain historical context. "Long Story, Short..." though, this 10-member group of competent emcees that formed in Portland, Oregon, don't fail to deliver an intriguing album.
The first thing a group such as Sandpeople need to establish is that each member has something different to offer, thus creating a multi-textured effort that does not slip into the mundane. Here, it seems that the group consisting of; Ethic, Sapient, Onlyone, Immaculate, Mo-B, Lame, Gold and Al-One, has slimmed down on a couple of members since their inception back in 2005. Still, each one of them offers their own rhyme style which keeps things interesting. Once signed with Epic Records, this faction has been on the verge of commercial success but is now strictly an underground bi-product of the record industry that too often spits out talented musicians, in this case promoting the likes of rock band The Fray in favor of the Sandpeople. It may be all for the better though, since I don't really see the Sandpeople fitting in with the current mainstream market, making people do ignorant shit like the "Ricky Bobby," when considering the gloomy tracks on this new EP.
All nine tracks on "Long Story, Short..." are produced and mixed by in-house rapper/producer Sapient, or the RZA of the group, in his very own studio. This effectively creates a feeling of cohesiveness as he has a nisus for the dramatic that matches the lyrical content.
"Control Panel" is a strong example of the pessimism towards humanity and government that the Sandpeople exude throughout the disc's narrative. As the beat plods along, we get scathing verses like this from Lame:
"Give a pedestrian a pedestal
A puppet strings; Gepetto's pull
The public thinks it is in control
Pump your brakes- They'll let you know
Big Brother in high-definition
No one state the division
Right wing Christians stay wetted up
Iraq streets we lit 'em up
This be the land of the litter bug
Home of the unleaded pump
Our former President
led us into war just to catch Sadam (mission accomplished)
At the end of the day it's just a job description
Or citizens march armed with their best Wizard of OZ renditions
Like all we see is the heart, courage and brains
To spark a serious change
Through a series of chain
Reactions, no lights, camera, fiction
Fists are better than the city skyline
As we redefine freedom
Too long we've been denied truth
Loot the root of the society
And everybody's got a price tag
Some confuse it with merits
And try to conceal the motives most
The brutally transparent
But at the end of the day
If everyone's paid
A weight's lifted off of every poor person's back
Like their soul been saved
Take that false hope to the grave"
Lame is anything but, as you can tell by the strength of his words on the track. Nor is Sapient or Onlyone whom also drop effective verses on the cut.
While "Control Panel" might be the most important and politically conscious songs on the EP, "Hate Aside" is the very best and most accessible joint. Here Sapient brings us deep piano tones and DJ Spark offers up slick scratches. The tracks main focus is about persevering in the independent hip-hop scene, which they will effectively do if they continue to bring heat like this. The song succeeds because of the melodic sing-songy chorus:
"There ain't no rules in this game we play
Hate aside there ain't shit you can say"
Listeners will put their hate aside immediately after hearing this stellar offering.
Finally, the concluding track "The Dapper Mob" is a masterfully composed song written and composed by Sapient as he takes the song, as he is the only member that gets a solo. The song is far from your standard rap fare; in fact, it kind of sounds like a grim version of Pharrell at his most creative. Still the demented discourse is enthralling as Sap' states, "oh be good, or I'll be in the shadows with a baseball bat."
These reviews are truthfully too short to analyze every effective track, even considering it's short length, but "Oh My God," "Money Is On Their Minds" and "Left," which celebrate their Northwest geography, all prevail. Meanwhile, some tracks like "Strands" and the frenzied "Beyond Us" do not do much to differentiate themselves enough to standout, yet are still far from wack, or even average.
The only minor points of detraction from "Long Story, Short..." are that the album sometimes feels a little too dark, lacking any kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and that it is difficult to give each member time to shine on a release that closes at about 36 minutes of runtime. Wanting more is not the worst criticism to have. And they don't waste any time with introductions or needless skits. If you have the same urge to dig deeper into the catalogue, check for their previous two LP's and some of the solo work they've put out which seems to be consistently solid.
The Sandpeople strive to bring these multi-member groups back to the forefront of the rap movement. Though they may fail in popularizing such groups again, they definitely represent the importance of them when each piece fits together to make a well-balanced release. More in the same vein as Jedi Mind Tricks, they devilishly play around with a brooding sentiment that works on many levels.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: June 2, 2009