In the latest issue of Scratch magazine, Mr. Walt and Evil Dee reveal that the static that you hear on their beats might not necessarily stem from the sampled record, but from someplace else, purposely lifted from an otherwise silent groove to have a layer of static to put over a sample to give it that dirty ‘n dusty finish. I don’t wanna say I feel cheated, because I’ve kind of expected this to be common practice ever since DJ Premier first turned static into a trademark sound. There have been instances where I was convinced that static had been added later on because the sample underneath just sounded too clean for all that crackling to be real. I don’t blame Da Beatminerz for trying to make a beat sound exactly the way they want it to sound, because that’s their job. But to mine for beats and to pretend they were older and more obscure than how you found them is still somewhat dishonest, especially when you name an entire album after the phenomenon.
Maybe I would have looked for a more sympathetic opening paragraph if “Fully Loaded w/ Statik” would in any way live up to “Brace 4 Impak,” their 2001 debut, or the first generation of Boot Camp Clik albums that established them as a highly respected production team. After the expansion to five members, apparently it’s back to just Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee. Diversity is not a problem, as the two prove able to lay down tracks for MC’s with needs as different as KRS-One and J-Live. Even soulful tracks for singers (RomaÃ©, David Banks) have found their way into the Beatminerz repertoire. The problem is that the majority of the beats passes by without leaving much of a lasting impression. “O! (11.9)” is seriously lacking in low end, yet the potential goodies (samples) still somehow managed to get buried in the mix. “Live From Master Control Pt. 2,” while slightly better stacked, will still have you listening in vain for anything resembling a bassline, and on top of that sounds too much like a track the guest-starring Dilated Peoples would have come up with themselves. “Hip Hop” attempts to capture the raw energy of a hip-hop jam, succeeding with a booming beatbox background, yet failing to evolve from the live atmosphere into a full-grown song. Without a proper guiding hand, the murky “Feedback” can only evoke distant memories of the eerieness of “Dah Shinin’.” “Mafia Don” with its in-your-face reggae influence lacks the subtle Jamaican vibes of ’90s Beatminerz tracks. “U.. Me.. All Ov Us!” integrates vocal samples with which Jean Grae interacts cleverly, but ultimately moves ahead as uneventfully as the rapper herself. “Check One, Two” is nothing more than a familiar break cued up to create a cipher-like setting.
That leaves three beats up to previous standards. The opening “Let’s Go” compliments KRS-One’s commanding delivery with a basic but pounding drumbeat interspersed with guitar twangs and a choir of kids chanting. Unfortunately it’s far too brief to match its epic make-up. “It Ain’t Enough” pairs dubby sci-fi bleeps with funky percussion. It may not go much further, but at least it hints at the humor that’s always been a part of Da Beatminerz’ music. To top it off, rappers Wordsworth and Last Emperor tag-team with so much ease over the track you’d swear it’s Punch & Words. By far the best overall track is “Pull Your Card” featuring Mystic. It’s cohesive from the beat to the rhymes, an accentuated but grooving sample tooting in the background, set against a clear, headnod-inducing rhythm section. Unlike many of the other guests, Mystic knows what she wants to say, as she vents against everyone from party-crashers to wanna-be’s disrespecting the g code to certain white folks into hip-hop:
“You a white boy in a fuckin’ drop top
bumpin’ 2Pac actin’ like you hard – stop
Hip-Hop music make the world go ’round
But buyin’ a record don’t put you down
You listen to thugs, it don’t make you one
Never met a Blood or Crip, but you act like one?
Listen child, folks die for the money
you tryin’ to play along is so not funny
Some will came me a bitch, true fans will know
If you down for the craft, then it’s love fo’ sho’
Music’s for the masses but the life is not
quit tryin’ to bring the hood to your suburban block
You ain’t gotta be black to understand the struggle
but that misrepresentin’ll get you in trouble”
The rest of the guests go about their task less purposeful. The ever-charismatic KRS vows, “we gon’ leave the plantation,” but fails to take “Let’s Go” beyond the usual sloganeering. Acclaimed lyricists J-Live and Jean Grae can be much more convincing, Rakaa, Ev and Chali 2na are in and out quick (“Live From Master Control Pt. 2”), Sha Lumie (“Hip Hop”) and Krumbsnatcha (“Feedback”) briefly raise the energy levels without really breaking a sweat on a lyrical level, Last Emperor does his best Twin Gambino impression on the uninspired “Mafia Don,” just barely managing to squeeze in a quotable at the end: “I combine musical murder and street science / I took a vow like omertÃ – complete silence / to put it down like the underworld overloard / and spit it like it was written by Francis Ford Coppola.” Da Beatminerz themselves get rarely addressed, but can be proud of KRS-One referring to their music as “all school hip-hop.” And there’s J-Zone, concluding at the end of “Check One, Two”: “When I need some theme music for when Halle let me hit it / I’m tearin’ our her back to “Powerful Impak”.”
Da Beatminerz have come a long way, from mastering early ’90s New York hip-hop with the classic “Poppa Large” remix to establishing a short-lived empire with the other members of the Boot Camp Clik, which soon began to crumble, but who has left behind a legacy of essential, rugged yet highly refined hip-hop. In 2005, their glory days fade further, and it’s not because of its R&B tracks that “Fully Loaded w/ Statik” has little chance of making a powerful impact. Oh there’s static alright. But static alone does not guarantee a vintage vibe, deep digging or dope hip-hop period.