Back in the day when I was a young impressionable youth trying to shape my image my Father would try to dissuade me from the glamorized hustling lifestyle that rap music often promotes–He would do so by busting a cheesy old school rhyme in the vein of “My name’s Masta Don [his first name is Donald] and I’m here to say…” and so on. So, the image that Bonshah creates with his cover art and title of his second album “The Mighty Masta Don” makes me laugh in two ways; First, it reminds me of those less than glorious days of adolescence in which I was subject to a couple of painstaking bars from the old man. Secondly, the ‘masta-don’ that Bonshah refers to is the mammoth prehistoric elephant-like creature which surely was a formidable force in its time, but hardly relevant to the rap world in any way (unless you’re convinced of the double meaning of ‘don’ being a mob leader). The proving grounds for Bonshah to impress as an emcee is with this very disc, but is it as monumental as the character he tries to reflect?
Bonshah is considered a pioneer of the Halifax hip-hop scene. His 2001 debut, ‘Not on the Map’ gathered him some indie respect with nominations for the East Coast Music Award (ECMA). However, the real highlight and the likely place a less hardcore music nut might recognize him from would be his feature on Canadian emcee Classified’s well-received album, “Trial and Error”. A half decade later we are offered his true jump off with MMD.
After a slow start to the disc between a battle-inspired Intro track and a over-tooled joint entitled “Like Ali” that finds Bonshah trying to draw comparisons to the legendary boxer the audience is given something to move to with “Formatted Vehicle”. The faster synthetic dance beat seems to suit Bonshah’s flow better than the methodic style of the previously mentioned tracks. Unfortunately this is the only work for Bassz behind the boards on the project because it stands out as some good rider music a la “Bakardi Slang” by Kardinal Offishall. Also, this is one of the rare occasions on the LP that adds cuts to the track for depth.
“All Sum” samples the piano beat from Gary Joules reworking of Tears for Fears “Mad World” song most known for its eerie placement in the fine film Donnie Darko. It is a tough track to criticize because undoubtedly the loop is infectious, however when you compare it to the source material it does not hold up because that is goose bump inducing. Bashon flows nicely and his subject matter is usually pretty accessible but the bars are sometimes loosely tied together, “Yo, ya’ll wooden statues, I rock like Dave Matthews” and “Nominated for a Tony cuz I can Bennett”. It would be nicer if there was more direction and thought put into how the tracks fit together to create a single entity.
Bashon gets back on track with “Confrontational” which amongst the dramatically symphonic backdrop manages to slip in a subtle DJ Premier sample from a certain classic Nas single from “I Am”–a difficult thing to hate on. The complaint from “All Sum” is nearly obliterated with more focused and logically rhyme choices on this cut.
The album peters out a bit near the end. At only 36 minutes and 13 tracks one would can only warrant a purchase if is almost all hotness, but there is too much of a let down. “Two Chez” is hyper-sexualized romp that is easily the lowlight finding Bashon creating a blasphemous version of “Freeky Tales”, even including the very unnecessary sexual moans, presumably from his co-emcee Caramel Goddess who also lent her vocals to the aforementioned “All Sum”. “Can’t Run” is an anxious track that repeats “runnin’ and runnin’ and runnin’ and runnin’…” as the uninspired chorus. Simply put, RZA, Ghostface and Jada did it much better on last year’s “Fishscale”.
Some more support from the bigger names from the Underground or Canadian scene might have helped the overall product. Illogic serves as the best guest on the disc to close it out, but it runs at a meager 2:06 time. The others, Caramel Goddess, Mickey D, Jed Nice, Mohawk and Miracle are forgettable. Maybe next time Classified, DL Incognito (who sounds somewhat similar to Bashon), or any other draw could step forward to make the post-release to “The Mighty Masta Don” something more special.
In the end Bashon is far and away a better rapper than my Father, who was no “Mighty Masta Don”, but there are several steps forward to take. Instead of being the formidable force of the prehistoric beast, he finds himself as another simply decent emcee for the time being who is still more suited for guest spots or part of a greater whole.