DieNasty Records is based out of San Diego, California, and features Kostik, Kalibur, Tank, and Mute. I don’t know that I’ve heard any hip hop out of San Diego before, and I was expecting something that reflected the sun, surf, and laid-back vibe of that city. Instead, DieNasty comes at you with a dark, sinister sound that seems like it should be coming out of Detroit or the Midwest rather than sunny California. The beats are gritty, cinematic, and as cold and humorless as a Michigan winter.
There’s no sunshine in the rappers’ rhymes, either. There is nothing Cali about their rapidfire delivery, and their lyrics deal with the side of San Diego that the tourists don’t see. They hit the prerequisite street rap talking points of guns, drugs, and girls, but they also get into the struggles of the streets and trying to make it in this cold world. They get some help on the mic from Tech N9ne, Crooked I, Kutt Calhoun, and Ecay Uno, among others. For the most part, the Die Nasty crew hold their own. They are outshined by Tech N9ne, and can’t quite match his lightening quick delivery on “Killin’ It.”
I won’t lie: I was rooting for this crew. I admire the fact that they are strictly underground, and I like the grassroots feel and rawness of this project. This is clearly a labor of love from four artists who are passionate about what they do, and want to stay true to themselves. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to like this, I didn’t. I found the whole thing plodding and boring. There was nothing interesting or engaging about the music, and it all sounded like something that had been done a thousand times before and wasn’t a great idea to begin with. While the MCs are all competent, the content of their rhymes is generic Street Rap 101, as are the beats. I had trouble getting through the entire album, and never managed to do it all in one sitting. Something is wrong when listening to music for a review becomes an obligation rather than a pleasure.
“The Live Sick Compilation” got four nutts (out of five) from Murder Dog, THE magazine for aficionados of street rap, so obviously, this is somebody’s glass of Remy Martin, although it sure as hell ain’t mine. If you like your street rap tough-as-nails, and don’t mind sacrificing interesting beats and rhymes for gritty tales of urban struggle, give a listen to “Killin’ It,” “Solution,” and “Expect the Worst,” three of the better tracks.