At the very least, Detroit’s Phalanx deserve our respect for taking a completely do-it-yourself approach to putting together their debut full-length. “Corporate Raid” was entirely written, produced, mixed, and engineered by the group’s six members. On top of that, the album comes on the under-used “Enhanced CD” format, which is something I feel far too few artists take advantage of. The enhanced features include song lyrics, performance footage, interviews, photos, and a short bio on the Phalanx. And if you can believe it, the entire enhanced package was created exclusively by the group as well. Oh, AND their website, phalanx-int.com, was self-constructed too. Obviously, Hookdignious, Waxo, Jugghead, Devastator, Doctor Mike J, and Don Dada are keeping themselves busy. Damn busy. Not content with just being labeled “rap artists,” the Phalanx crew prefers to be considered entrepreneurs, and like I said, that deserves our utmost respect.
However, as hard as they’ve worked to get to this point, after listening to “Corporate Raid,” I get the feeling that maybe the Phalanx are spreading themselves too thin. Don’t get me wrong: this is not a bad record by any means. But I think that, had the Phalanx concentrated a little more on the actual music, rather than all the other ventures they’ve undertaken, the finished product would have come out sounding much better.
Specifically, I think the Phalanx show the most potential in their production. With a little polish, I feel like we could reasonably be hearing Phalanx beats on the radio alongside Timberland and the Neptunes. In fact, Waxo and Jugghead approach Timmy-worthiness with the beat for “Make Moves.” Elsewhere, the beats recall Dr. Dre (“Another Rampage”), Swizz Beats (“Where U From”), and more often, Mannie Fresh (“Got That Sound,” “Don Deva”). Unfortunately, despite the odd shimmer of brilliance, the Phalanx never fully reach the strength of any of those producers.
Far and away the album’s best cut, “Make Moves” is really actually the only track in which the Phalanx ever reach full power. If every one of the album’s tracks was this good, we’d have a winner with “Corporate Raid.” Sadly though, the crew barely manages to keep its head above the water on the rest of the album. This is especially apparent on “The Audacity” and “Assumption,” which frankly both suck. The album could have done without those two and still stayed at a very respectable length.
So while the Phalanx do make good producers, they don’t exactly make good MCs. To be honest, I found it hard to tolerate listening to any of them, besides Don Dada, who reminds me of something of a cross between Tash and Method Man. For the vast majority of the album, the raps are high pitched and spastic. The flows are not very musical, and they often come out sounding rushed and awkward. I’d quote some of it just to give you a feel for what I mean, but none of the lyrics were memorable enough to do so. Basically, with voices that range from nasally to nerdy (sometimes both at once), none of the Phalanx are particularly nice on the mic. Overall, their raps reminded me of Jurassic 5, but with none of J5’s humor and wit, no harmony, and very questionable verse structure. And on “Never Stop Building,” the Phalanx show exactly why they’re not quite ready for prime-time by repeatedly chanting the name of their website. WHAT? Try to imagine what that sounds like. Six grown men shouting “P-H-A-L-A-N-X-dash-I-N-T-dot-C-O-M!.” Yes, they actually say “dash” and “dot.” I’m sure you can understand why I believe that this may very well be the lamest thing I have ever heard in my life. What the hell were they thinking there?
So while “Corporate Raid” isn’t nearly all bad, enough of it is. Though the Phalanx show potential on “Make Moves,” “Another Rampage,” and “Divorce,” they just aren’t able to keep up that good impression for an entire album, which is a shame. Better luck next time.