The BeatMonstas are a collective of Chicago emcees, DJs, and producers. Members include Phashara, Noble Dru, Nipples Tha Pimp, and Diamond Black. After meeting in 1992 at Columbia College in Chicago, each member spent years trying to make a name in the treacherous hip-hop industry. Dissatisfied with what they encountered in their efforts, they eventually formed the BeatMonstas in 2003 and started their own label, the aptly named BeatMonstas Entertainment. Their debut, titled “The 3rd Weapon”, is essentially a showcase for the label’s artists (also including Rahfiki, Aum Mu Ra) who are expected to release solo ventures in the near future.
The BeatMonstas shine brightest when addressing social issues, at one point calling themselves the “Ghetto PBS”. “Class Division”, “Four-Four”, and “Where You At” are the best examples of this. “Class Division” sports a airy, haunting beat that grabs your attention and while lacking specifics, it’s all-encompassing in narrating the trials and tribulations of life on the streets. The best track of the album is “Where You At”, a solo track where Noble Dru criticizes self-described saviors of the black community who have flamed out and disappeared while also venting towards a vicious media and capitalist system that’s all but happy to keep the poor poor.
“What happened to them niggas pro-Black? Where you at?
The niggas say they had our backs, where you at?
Muthafuckas that be dropping them facts, where you at?
Niggas with an army packin’ them gats, where you at?
Leaders say they’d get these snakes off our back, where you at?
Where you at?! Where you at?!”
Other memorable tracks include “Paradise”, an ode to fine ladies over a grainy piano loop, “Telephone Call Away”, an R&B love song for Chicago by Rahfiki that succeeds because of Rahfiki’s unmistakable raw talent and the track’s unpolished instrumental (unlike the artificial, soulless R&B of most commercial radio), and “Let’s Talk About Love”. On this track, each of the BeatMonstas gets open about personal topics and it’s refreshing.
“In the story of life, I find myself writing chapters
The body of a man searching hard for the rapture
Nowadays, truth getting’ easier to capture
Body plays the ship and mind plays the captain
The more things I do, the less I profess to be
Curb my temper more cause I can see what’s testing me”
The pitfalls of the album are the braggadocio or strong-arm “I’ma kill you when I see you” rhymes that have already been done to death by every rapper known to man. “La La La”, “Overdrive”, and “Crazy” demonstrate the “dark side” of the BeatMonstas, only bad because we know from the other tracks that they’re capable of so much more than the needless posturing. It’s not that all of these types of tracks fail. “Tha Warning” and “5th City / 211” are decent enough, held together with acceptable production and a few clever bars. But “Overdrive” and “Crazy” suffer from empty threats backed by poor production (the former has sparse beeps and bops reminiscent of a Neptunes beat gone horribly wrong, the latter sounds like an â€˜80s-pop leftover). Then there’s “Have A Word With / U” and “Wake Up” which I really have no idea what to make of.
All in all, the BeatMonstas show plenty of promise. Noble Dru, in particular, seems like a star in the making. With a Rahfiki solo joint in the works, I’m definitely curious to see how that project turns out. He reminds me of a more accessible version of Cody Chesnutt, definitely a compliment considering my affinity towards “A Headphone Masterpiece”. So the apparent low rating of “The 3rd Weapon” is not so much a knock on the group or it’s talent, but rather an issue with almost all compilations that overflow with filler. Once these guys drop solo albums, it’s a whole different ballgame.