As clever names for hip-hop groups go, Lexicon surely ranks at the top. Not only does it roll smoothly off the tongue, the word literally implies that those carrying the L are as verbose than a Merriam-Webster dictionary. When you say that Nick Fury and Big Oak are brothers-in-arms in this rap war, that too is quite literal – their natural rap chemistry a result of their real life fraternity. As such 2001’s full length debut “It’s the L!!” was a true diamond among the roughs of underground rap. With beats by DJ Cheapshot and lyrical artillery by The Brothers Black, the album received much critical acclaim. Ironically though, the duo may have been overshadowed by being labelmates with another critically acclaimed underground duo – Ryu and Tak, better known as Styles of Beyond.

Looking to raise their profile further, Lexicon has returned in 2003 with a new full-length album: “Youth Is Yours.” And true to the title, “These Days” shows that the MC’s are clearly focused on the here and now, pushing whining to the back and concise clear diction to the front over another Cheapshot boomtastic beat:

“I’m sick of wishin for the good ol’ days – MY MISSION
Put some fun back in the stage and shut up my own bitchin
See I been there and done-it, twice times a-hundred
Got mad, regrouped while most of y’all fronted
These days I don’t stay blunted by choice
I can breathe a lot better standin higher than Royce
And you betcha, they don’t know what to think bout the voice
And just wait ’til ya see me I’ma make y’all believe me
I’m an underground veteran, 23 and better than
99 point 9 percent, it’s unsettling
We’re underrated while the undeserved
Will get undone, it’s done, that shit is absurd but
Actions speak louder than complaints and claims
We’re here for good so don’t mistake the name
It’s the L-E, X-I, C-O, N
It ain’t even close to over, it’s about to begin”

As a manifesto for independent rap, many lesser MC’s could take heed to the words and spend more time being fresh while spending less complaining about getting no props. Lexicon don’t stay bitter, they stay funky. That’s why they can create compelling jams like “Voodoo” that put you in a musical trance. Clearly they feel mesmerized by the Southern California hip-hop scene themselves, and expound upon that intensity at length:

“I guess I could blame it on the city we live in I mean
Perfect weather full of beautiful women or else
I could pass all the credit to the lights
Maybe that’s the reason that we shine so bright
There’s something in the air tonight man
Like whatever we do, it’s the right plan
If you’re with me won’tcha raise your right hand
And, solemnly swear on the kicks and the snares”

Their music will definitely put a spell on you. It’s not often you’ll hear rappers proclaiming to “Turn Your Radio Up,” but if Lexicon’s smooth track was playing you’d definitely want to. Natural unions of producer and MC don’t come along every day, but Cheapshot is to Oak and Nick like Premier is to Guru and Dr. Dre is to Snoop Dogg. In fact, it’s not hard to praise either the raps or the beats on any of these songs. On “I Think That You Want To” a somewhat whimsical selection of jazzy sounds give the backdrop to Lexicon catching honies. On “Party Party People” guest star Dizzy Dustin of Ugly Duckling combines with them over a slow tempo and funky breaks for rhymes and a track that inspire fond nostalgia. “Brokenhearted” is a more somber affair, with a forelorn style through and through for a tale of “blockin punches from the girl of my dreams.” They don’t stay down long though, because “Rock” does just that over a brassy beat that’s the Muppet Show of hip-hop. And the machinations of “I’ll Be Alright if You Stay For the Night” may be the sweetest of all. Cheapshot weaves the elements together into a beautiful tapestry. Like the SpyTech that he is, the strings break down each group of bars like a James Bond movie. The mics have been tweaked to make Oak and Nick’s voices have a slight echo and scratch quality, and the scratched in chorus has Guru quipping “yes I fell in love with this ill chick” and Grand Puba pleading “come on honey sing don’t you, try to eject.” It’s all fresher than Tropicana, but it wouldn’t be quite so sweet if the raps weren’t the pure citrus:

“How can I look into your eyes and already miss you
I just wanna, hold those hips
I’m hip to you, call it a jonz
But I’d rather you were here than to talk on the phone
It’s not the S-E, X you’re so sexy
You’re next to me, but you just left me
Damn, it’s like you don’t understand
Like you’re playin with me, just danglin me
Over what I want and what I can’t have
I’m out and I’m too far to grab
I wish you would pull me in, not the kiss goodnight
I want to see those eyes in the morning light
Between me and you baby, you’re all I need
And I need you hear, satisfy my greed”

Method Man couldn’t have put it better. Lexicon’s approach to rap is a bit old-fashioned, in a good way. Instead of overzealously trying to punch a punchline into every line, Nick and Oak concentrate on telling stories and providing interesting scenarios. The experience is like watching a movie called “A Day in the Life of Hip-Hop” unfold before your eyes, as you picture the information being fed through your ears. That’s not to say they aren’t clever, because they can certainly flip the script, but Lexicn rely more on their lexicon of words to draw you in and put you in the song. That’s why from “Gotta Believe” at the start to “Don’t Be Afraid” at the end, you’ll be vibing off the fresh tracks, sly humor, and precise rap diction and narration. “When it comes to paying dues you’re forced to stay in debt,” quips Nick Fury, but one has to feel Lexicon won’t stay broke for long. As the scratching at the end of “Don’t Be Afraid” says, the brothers Black have “the skills you can’t front on.”

Lexicon :: Youth Is Yours
9Overall Score