When I first read that the people responsible for this album were part of London’s hip-hop scene since 1997, I wondered how come I had never heard of them. Only after I listened attentively for any clues did I realize that maybe, just maybe the press sheet didn’t talk about London, England, but some other London. Turns out, rapper Transit and producer Tonic represent London, Ontario. So instead of bitching about missing British accents, I find myself picking apart Transit’s performance for other reasons. The strength of his voice is his main asset, but a too even inflection makes it hard to latch on to his flow. Add to that a delivery that isn’t crispy clean and loaded with adlibs, which often prevents you from understanding the crucial points in his sentences, and a flawed or at last fuzzy rhetoric, and you have a rapper that struggles to have your attention. He’s trying to make up for it with polysyllabic rhyme patterns, but they only force him into uncomfortable flows, rather than enhance his performance. On the surface, Transit is an okay rapper, but as soon as put him into a greater context, he’s blown out of the water by someone like the highly agile and animated Kardinal Offishall.

His partner Tonic has a similar way of trying to follow established paths yet getting lost along the way. The ‘alluring female adlibs’ shtick gets annoying when you hear it for the fifth time. When he’s not using sugary samples (“So They Say”, “C’est What”), he’s busy constructing chunky club beats that usually catch your ears when they begin to build up, but soon lose appeal because they’re just too mechanical, devoid of any funk or soul. Tracks like “Big Bottom Pros” or “Get Real” do thump, and Tonic possesses an impressive arsenal of bottom-heavy sounds, but at its worst “Precrime” presents either a bad imitation of commercial US rap (“Give it 2 Me (Remix)”) or amounts to nothing more than playing about (“Game Time”, “Tonight”). It’d be hard for any rapper to get a hold on these overproduced beats, and Transit isn’t the confident vocalist that would know how to accentuate them properly. That’s why unfortunately the symbiotic relationship beats/rhymes works to the disadvantage of both the producer and the rapper in this case.

Amongst all the unfinished hooks, enigmatic song titles, lascivious female voices, synthetic beats and hard-to-follow lyrics, there’s the occasional encouraging moment. Transit reminiscing on a relationship in “Everything”, or calling out the black sheep in the audience in “Get Real”. Not to mention the mostly clean language and content of this album. But the sunrays of hope are too sparse to illuminate this gloomy affair.

Transit :: Precrime