For those people who remember the first Rawkus attempted at a Lyricist Lounge album, they know an ambitious double album deep with cuts that varied widely in quality from fantastic to failure. For those who don’t remember, it’s probably more likely they’ve seen the show of the same name on MTV every now and then. For those who aren’t familiar with either one.. how did you get HERE? Psych, just kidding. For the know-nots, the Lounge albums and show evolved from a tradition of open mic nights at different venues where you had to impress the crowd with your skills to get love.
For this reason, some people may initially be confused by the line-up of this compilation. That’s not to say that songs like the lead single “Oh No” by Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch and Nate Dogg aren’t dope – but aren’t these guys well established in rap already? There’s more like this; such as the simmering Hi Tek produced energy of Cocoa Brovaz “Get Up”, the deep funk of Mighty Mi’s atomic M.O.P. and Kool G. Rap bomb “Legendary Street Team” and the updated revision of the Mos Def hit “Ms. Fat Booty” as a sequel with a new bassline and Ghostface Killah on the assist. As dope as these cuts are, it seems like the Lounge has been overrun by industry veterans. Last “Volume” it was about a 30/70 split between people who already had their props like KRS-One and Q-Tip and relative unknowns such as Natural Elements, Word A’ Mouth, and Jurassic 5. This time it’s like 90/10.
If you didn’t walk into the album with any preconceptions about what a “Lyricist Lounge” was supposed to be, you’re not going to mind. There’s plenty to enjoy here. Saukrates some of his tightest raps ever on “W.K.Y.A.,” perhaps inspired by sharing the bill with fire-spitter Reggie Noble (Redman). Alchemist gives Evidence and Rakka Iriscience another fat blunted beat to smoke on the Dilated Peoples “Right and Exact.” The dope DJ Premier remix of Macy Gray’s “I’ve Committed Murder” featuring Guru makes an appearance; and if you skip all the way ahead to track 38 on the CD you can find a “Legendary Street Team” remix hiding in the margins.
There are however a few weak tracks that mar an otherwise enjoyable experience. DJ Roddy Rod offers Q-Tip and Wordsworth a beat on “Makin’ it Blend” that wouldn’t have even made the cut as a b-side for Consequence. Beanie Sigel’s “Get That Dough” is so far out of place in the +Lounge+ concept that it would have to be ejected for that alone if Hi Tek didn’t provide him a sub-par monotonous plate of music to dine on. Ship this joint to Roc-A-Fella. All things considered, “Watcha” is probably the least vexing of the tracks being shitted on – but on a basically East coast compilation the appearance of JT Money and Pastor Troy is WAY out of place. Besides that, if you were going to pick a Lyricist from the South for the Lounge, why these two? How about somebody tight like Andre 3000, Cee-Lo, Mystikal or even Trick Daddy?
From the opening “16 Bars” by Notorious B.I.G. (recorded live at a Lyricist Lounge in 1993) to the closing “Outro” by Q-Tip, Rawkus presents an intriguing selection of songs which actually come off more like they are meant as a successor to “Soundbombing 2” than “Lyricist Lounge Vol. 1.” Cuts like “Let’s Grow” by Royce Da 5’9″ are certified bangers, but dissapointing tracks like the Big L and C-Town duet “Still Here” (all of L’s lyrics are recycled from his other appearances) kill a positive buzz. The good material outweighs the bad in the final analysis but conceptually you really have to question if Rawkus hit the mark on this one. It’s a Hip-Hop Lounge, but not a Lyricist Lounge at all. If they combined the conceptual vision of the first Lounge with the dope tracks of the second they’d have a truly great album. Keep your eye out for Lyricist Lounge 3 to see if they do.