The Aztext titled their series of EPs "Who Cares If We're Dope" as a statement about their attitude towards making music. Whatever the Aztext are doing, they are not trying to fit in or fill a mold. They live in Vermont, for one thing, hardly a known hotbed of hip-hop. Their drug of choice is hardcore classic 90s NYC battle rap, the kind of stuff that gets heads excited but isn't the easiest way to move product. It wasn't mainstream in its heyday, and it's not going to revive the flagging record industry today. MCs Pro and Learic focus their energy on lyricism, crafting dense and clever strings of word together, something so out of favor that now it is an exception when an MC is lyrical. If the Aztext were savvy businessmen, they'd just string some random words together with a catchphrase, record 17 versions of it and release it as a mixtape. Presto! Two more based gods are born!
Instead they are going the slower, more thankless route, experimenting with different styles, working with different producers, and trying out different types of songs. Maybe this approach is their way of reaching outside their comfort zone, and maybe it's a way to see what sticks best with their audience. Either way, no one can accuse them of standing still or resting on their laurels.
Each episode has the Aztext teaming up with a different producer, and this time around they pair up with XPL for a mellower sound. "Ol' Skool" is classic Aztext, describing their history in hip-hop and the accolades they've gotten from some of the big names in the game, all over a funky break.The rest of the album is more melodic, with sung hooks and introspective lyrics.
Memms sings the hook on "Nothing I Say," their stab at a hip-hop love song. It's about as successful as most hip-hop love songs, which is to say not very, but they get points for trying. "Down the Road" and "Down the Road (Part 2)" offer two sides of the same story, which is the MCs meeting an older version of themselves. Part one tells it from their younger selves, and part two from their older, wiser selves.
"What if you met yourself down the road
And got to hear your story told
Would you want to know
How it all ends up
Or would you rather just spend your life livin' it up?"
It's an interesting idea, and shows the Aztext venturing into Atmosphere territory, abandoning battle rap for insightful storytelling.
Skilltester joins the Aztext on "Break It Down," another mellow track about the hustle and grind of being an MC. The MCs don't let the slower tempo kill their lyricism.
"This all came as a result of careful crafting
Even though some thoughts might have been scrawled across a paper napkin
It's all part of the process
The structure is quite simple but you thought it was complex
They're yelling to us 'Hey, Aztext, you're on next'
I take a moment to focus and get myself in check
Cuz if you don't come correct with your dialect they'll hang you by your neck with it
Sign your death certificate
That's your own potential kid
You get a whiff of it
At the least I hope to release something significant
When I'm deceased, say 'geez, he was different'
My name will live on if there are still people listening
Cuz the soundscape changes everyday
And it's hard to stay original with catchphrases in your way
It's just the language you choose to use to explain your views"
Like the new Has-Lo or Atmosphere records, "Who Cares If We're Dope Pt. 3" is a slow-burner. There aren't any bangers, and the songs are designed to get your head thinking instead of your ass moving. This isn't the best point of entry for people new to the Aztext: the first two volumes are more uptempo and are better starting points. Fans of the Aztext will appreciate how they are expanding their lyrical and sound palette, exploring new sounds and new ideas.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: May 17th, 2011