It’s been said before, but the easiest way to make a name for yourself as an no-name rap artist or group is to have DJ Premier produce your first single. Pitch Black has proven that maxim true again. Virtually unknown for most of 2003 (even their label of record has no entry for them) this crew burst on the scene when Primo laced the song “It’s All Real” and vinyl outlets quickly started moving units. Of course it didn’t hurt that the flipside of the single “Shake That” was produced by Swizz Beatz either. In a few months time, they went from unknowns to well enough known to release a full length debut album, and 2004’s “Pitch Black Law” was the result.

“It’s All Real” would be good enough reason alone to buy their album, especially at the bargain prices under $10 many stores have sold it at. The beat is trademark Primo to the heart, with scratched in raps, symphonic sounds recombinated into hip-hop attitude, and a strong pounding beat driving the words along. From the liner notes inserted in this disc, one learns that Pitch Black consists of D.G., Fast, G.O.D., Devious and Zakee. Who raps which verse on “It’s All Real” though is anybody’s guess, although the opening MC definitely sounds fit to spit on a DJ Premier track:

“1970, I was sent through a heavenly spirit
And I’ve been dead-e-ly, as far back as my memory
can record the power of God was sent to me
They gon have to mention me among the best eventually
Pitch Black’s the group of the century
I ain’t tryin to see death, disease or the penitentiary
When the smoke screens fade, the charade’s played
Nothin remains but the foundation we layed is real
Destroy and build, my fiels is kill or be killed
Play around, when sprayin rounds, I lay you down
No doubt you don’t know what it’s about
You think you spittin game but the game spit you out
So you ain’t innovatin you’re regurgitatin
Poisonous thoughts, doing dirty work for Satan”

Whoever he is, whack he ain’t. Besides the intelligent lyrics, he’s got solidly clear diction, a vocal chord mix of Parrish Smith with the suave of Nas, and keeps the beat neat with precise timing and breath control. The other members sound aight too though. Verse two’s rapper is obviously the “thug lead” of the group, with a Freddie Foxxx voice and a style he describes as “weed grammar, coke manners.” The third and last verse features two rappers trading lines, one who sounds a bit like Ill Bill, the other sounding a bit like Canibus. These guys are apparently the “Fast” and “D.G.” of the group, judging by the last line of their shared spotlight. Most importantly, none of them embarass Premier’s track, and each makes a worthwhile contribution.

Whether you can identify who they are individually ultimately becomes secondary to whether the album can hold up to the standards “It’s All Real” sets. To be sure, they did line up some all-star talent for beats. Teddy Riley works on “Geechy” and “My Life.” Primo and Swizz each produce a second track, the former handling “Got it Locked” with Foxy Brown and the latter doing the bonus track “N.Y.C.” Foxy isn’t the only big guest on the album either, as Busta Rhymes guests on the Notts produced track “R U Ready 4 This”:

“I hang with tall and short dudes like Sonny & Cher
You’re sittin in the front, then put one in the BACK of your chair
The way I rep aiyyo I solemnly swear
To put it down for niggaz ’til the show is over and my TIME is up here
Aiy yo yo, TELL me what the FUCK you try to score for
Cause how we wreck shit sometime the SHIT is so uncalled for
What you STALL for, the shit I got is really AWFUL
My street niggaz standin close by, ready to BRAWL FOR
The shit that make you GRAB all your weapons and go to war for
Type of shit’ll have niggaz layin out on the floor for
frontin why you know you SUCKIN IT UP, nigga
The way we keep it movin they be FUCKIN IT UP, nigga”

Even though a Busta Rhymes cameo is usually radio gold, this one’s so hardcore I doubt it could be edited enough for airplay. That’s true of “Pitch Black Law” in general, a record that clearly aims for an audience unsatisfied with the content of top 40 hip-hop and/or major label records. The closest they get to crossover is the self-produced “Good Times,” which sounds lyrically like a sequel to Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” and features a smooth sung hook by St. Juste. For a previously unknown rap group, they handle 13 songs and 50 minutes of material quite nicely. You may not know who they are individually, but collectively Pitch Black has the potential to lay down law in the future and for a long time to come.

Pitch Black :: Pitch Black Law
7.5Overall Score