Kings Konekted :: Trails to the Underlair: The Prequel :: Toaster Entertainment/Class A Records
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

It's no secret that hip-hop is an art form that spans across the globe. If you need more proof, feel free to browse the RapReviews archives and you'll find a gang of emcees from all corners of the world. Furthermore, take this release from Australian duo, Kings Konekted. Dontez and Culprit are the protégés of Stricknine, and have been working with him since 2006. This mixtape is primarily produced by Stricknine, Dontez, and Trem, but also features some "jacked" beats from Alchemist, 4th Disciple, and Necro, among others.

After the opening intro and the second track "Poisonous", two things become blatantly obvious to me: 1. This mixtape is going to be dark and 2. Stricknine is a BEAST on the cuts, reminiscent of DJ Premier of Gang Starr. By the time we get to "Three Choices", one more thing becomes clear and that is the fact that these guys can rhyme, as the crime storytelling on that track comes across quite vividly. As I continued to listen to the rest of the mixtape, the old adage "stick with what works best" came to mind. The beats on the majority of the songs (both original and jacked) are built on piano or other orchestral loops. When I first popped the disc in, I didn't look at any credits and I thought to myself that many of the songs had an old Wu-Tang type of feel to them. I would later read in the credits that one of the jacked beats was in fact a Sunz Of Man beat.

One of the biggest treats on the mixtape is "Tribute to the 80's (Class Of 87/88/89)", which features the duo rhyming over several beats from the era, including Public Enemy's "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos" and Eric B. & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend", among others. Another standout track is the Trem-produced "Maintain", which touches on keeping calm in the face of adversity and proclaims that "where there's a will, there's a way". The posse cut, "Co-Ordinates", features a plethora of emcees including Furnace Throat, Scissor Tongue, Boss Lungs, Gravel Tone, Cemetery Speech, and is produced by Metabolis. "Tour of Duty" and "Trails to the Under Lair" bring things to a close. The former joint, jacks the beat from Sunz Of Man's "Soldiers of Darkness".

For what it's worth, the Kings have found their niche. As they prepare to release their upcoming LP, "Corrupted Citizens", they may want to find a way to keep the listener's interest. I'm not saying that they're bad at all, it's just that at some point, the piano loops can become so monotonous that it borders on boring the average listener. Hardcore fans will love it from the first spin, but it will take a few more visits to the castle for others to be persuaded to enter the Kingdom.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: September 29, 2009