Here’s a mix-CD with a twist. More than one twist, actually. First off, you won’t find any current heaters on it, even if its title might lead you to believe otherwise. Most beats on it will sound familiar, but the raps won’t. You guessed it, it’s another promo effort by some guys trying to get their names out there. What else is new? Well, the scoop hides in the fine print. It’s the background info on “Block Burners” that enables the reviewer to come up with a piece of sufficient length.
Not any DJ can claim to have two of his tapes, “Doin My Thing” and “Blends Pt. 1” respectively, pictured in “Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists” and the artwork of DJ Shadow’s “The Private Press” album, but DJ B-Mello can. The Seattle DJ has been a fixture in the Northwest scene for the past decade by participating in DJ battles, holding down weekly radio slots, rocking shows and selling mixtapes. This time around he lends his talents to his own crew, the Block Burners. One particular thing about the Block Burners is that three of their emceeing members are members of the local Tulalip people, a small Native American tribe that has been given a reservation in Marysville, north of Seattle. Originally closely connected to the Pacific and its fishery, the Tulalip now have their own casino to attract tourists.
If this sounds somewhat mystifying to the average hip-hop consumer, be assured that the Block Burners are as versed in what it takes in today’s rap game as any other crew. With lead rapper Redskin hosting Seattle’s premiere mixshow “Street Sounds” alongside B-Mello, his Native American heritage is a cultural background just like any other. He could represent just about any urban area in the United States. The same goes for two other members, Treaty and Payote, who both grew up on the Marysville reservation. A fourth rapper, Young Lut, is originally from Philadelphia. The scratched quotes B-Mello litters all over “Stand Up” to introduce the Block Burners, make it clear from jump that the Block Burners represent 206 as well as “the reservation”.
Under the able supervision of B-Mello, the Block Burners spit profesionally over tracks that are virtually hot off the press. Think “Where da Hood At”, “On the Run”, “Cop That Shit”, various Neptunes tunes, and many other commercially tried and tested beats. DJ B-Mello and the MC’s keep the energy level high, without ever getting too annoying with shout-outs and such. Attention is paid to details. When they use “Frontin'” or “The World Is Filled…”, they make sure they have someone to fill in for Pharrel and Carl Thomas.
The Block Burners may be relentless in their approach, but they make sure they add some variety by inviting guests, slipping something in there for the ladies, taking a smoke break, etc. Still and all, their main purpose is to create a bullet-proof reputation for themselves. Taking a clue from crews like State Property, G-Unit, D-Block and Clipse, they engage in non-stop verbal bullying. The tone is thuggish, the imagery is violent. Redskin takes the lead with his veteran drawl, dictating the crew rules on “Burner Commandments”, Young Lut is the lieutenant with the sharpest blade, while Payote and Treaty act as the young guns.
While it may be hard to get used to unknowns hogging already familiar beats, it’s obvious that the Block Burners have potential. The flows are tight, the rhyming skills are there, the lyrics are compatible with mainstream tastes. What more could you ask for? Well, a real album, obviously. Often, the main problem of rappers entrenched this deeply in commercial rap music is finding the beats to match. Using other people’s beats may be an immediate alternative, yet without a single original beat featured on this CD, a long road lays ahead of the Block Burners. But it’s almost certain that somebody will be there waiting for them.