Having exploded into the public consciousness with “Supereducated”, a trunk-thumping anthem that rattled from boom boxes across the Great White North as well as several Stateside playlists, Arcee’s ubiquitous presence in the Toronto underground is undeniable, hosting the underground institution The Real Frequency on CKLN FM and claiming credit for some of the finest records to emerge from Canadian shores. Bizarrely, even with a considerably long career, Arcee’s discography remains puzzlingly meager, having but a slew of wax-only singles to his name. In an effort to reaffirm his relevance, this mixtape anthologizes and collects virtually all of Arcee’s recorded material as one cohesive compilation, flawlessly blended by one of Toronto’s premier turntablists, Lil’ Jaz.
While today’s underground darlings have diverted their attentions to more personal, biographical topics (Slug, Illogic, Eyedea etc.), Arcee remains firmly lodged in an era where battle rap was the order of the day, delivering meticulously delivered braggadocio atop Native Tongues flavoured, mid-tempo production. The battle rap peddled here is not of the aggressive variety wielded by the Weathermen or the Demigodz, though, more reminiscent of first-album Rasco, Dilated Peoples, Defari and particularly People Under The Stairs. The West Coast feel of the record is accentuated by Jake One’s prominent presence on this record- after all, it was with Arcee that Jake One first exhibited his considerable talent, having anchored tracks like “Essay On Pseudoism” before going on to cash checks from the G-Unit. The liberal scratches, jazzy syncopation, rumbling low end and euphoric, feel-good funk of the record is vintage West Coast underground, fiercely reminiscent of the mid â€˜90s’ most notable Native Tongues/Daisy Era revivalists.
Arcee’s flow is impeccable, exhibiting the polished sheen of an emcee who has conscientiously studied the legacies of luminaries that have preceded him. The inclusion of “Supereducated” shows him in prime form, as he effortlessly rides the breezy, clap and synth-driven composition, while “Essay On Pseudoism” sees him flex his carefully calculated, breathy cadence over Jake One’s emphatic percussion. While it is unquestionable that Arcee is an able emcee, and while there is no shortage of bangers on offer here- the outrageous posse cut “Stripes” showing Kardinal Offishall, Arcee, Brassmunk and the (INCREDIBLE) IRS at the height of their creative powers, it is a real shame that Arcee has never aspired to higher creative heights. The battle rap motif is uniformly maintained here, and it does get a little redundant hearing inflammatory rhetoric about fake emcees after a while.
Don’t let that dissuade you from giving this mixtape a chance, though. “Supereducated” remains amongst the most infectious slabs of wax to ever erupt from Canadian shores, while the exquisite DJ Serious-produced cut “You Know Me”, the irresistible, slinky funk of “12” and the sublime “Stripes” deserve your ten dollars. Besides, this is no more redundant or static as The Platform, Time Waits For No Man, The Listening, Soul Survivor 2 or any other mid â€˜90s-sounding LP that you cherish so dearly. If you’re a fan of The Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, Rasco and People Under The Stairs you could do far worse than pick up this slab of true-school integrity.