Philly MC Kasar “Tha Star” Ganor has been making music since he was in high school. His first group, EPATOMED (that’s “demo tape” backwards), had regional success with a song called “A Lil Something.” The group split up in the late nineties, and Kasar decided to focus on his own work as an artist and producer. “Dope: In Tha Form Of Music” showcases his skills as both a producer and rapper.
Let’s start with the producer part. In his promo materials, Kasar calls “Dope” a “Chronic”-style album, and Dre is a clear influence. Not the G-funk “Chronic” era Dre, but the perfectionist club banger Dre. The beats on the 14 tracks here are perfectly arranged, and show an artistry and talent that puts it a cut above your average street rap record. “I Grind, I Shine” has a moody beat that mixes a skittering hi hat and snare snaps with sustained strings; “One Two Punch” juxtaposes soul horns and guitar feedback, resulting in the kind of triumphant, bombastic beat that has made the Dipset a bundle; “Rida Music” adds guitars to an electro beat, and “The Chizange” goes a more minimalist route, with sparse synth stabs. He experiments with the Southern screwed sound on “Standing On Tha Block,” and “Throw It Up!,” has Dilla-esque drums and strings samples.
Like Dr. Dre (and Madlib, and Dilla, and Manny Fresh, and Timbaland), Kasar the rapper is not as good as Kasar the producer. Kasar’s dexterity on the boards isn’t matched with dexterity on the mic. However, like other producer/rappers, Kasar knows how to recruit good guest spots, and work to his strengths. Serce, Twizz, Dashman, Da Kid Nice, G.T. Ka$h, Roc Out Boiz, and Kai Chi all back Kasar up on the mic, which beefs up the rhyming on the disc considerably. Kasar’s low-key flow doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and as a result he sounds just as good as a lot of rappers who lack his skills as producer.
The subject matter doesn’t stray too far from getting money, grinding, riding, and partying, but it’s handled competently. Songs like “Where I’m From,” “Rida Muzic,” and “Tha Real Shit” detail the tough streets of South Philly, “Tha Chizange” and “I Grind I Shine” celebrate getting paid, and “I Remember,” and “Go!” detail Kasar’s transition from the streets to the studio. Several songs have an irritating habit of endlessly repeating the hook: “Dam You Looking Good, Girl,” “We Make It Pop” and “Tha Chizange” all ride their choruses into the ground. Kasar isn’t the only rapper to endlessly repeat a chorus, and he’s not the worst offender, but it’s still annoying. When Kasar gets the formula right, like on “Throw It Up!,” he strikes gold. Even in his less inspired moments, he offers above-average beats, and fans of street rap will be more than satisfied by Kasar and Co.’s stories of grinding and keeping it real. “Dope: Tha Album” is worth a listen, and Kasar’s production work is worth looking out for.