Though the last time we heard an official album from Black Moon was 16 years ago, the trio from Bucktown has kept busy since. Whether via production work, guest verses, or solo collaborative efforts (such as 2009’s “Survival Skills” and 2014’s “Backpack Travels”), it’s clear that Black Moon never left the rap game. While talk of their 4th studio album was going around for several years, it never came to fruition until now. With “Rise of Da Moon” finally released, the trio remain true to a mantra they were spouting on their 2003 album, “Total Eclipse”: “Stay Real, Never Change.” Being resilient is admirable and that is what’s kept Black Moon as fan-favorites in underground hip-hop and on their Duck Down Music record label (though the late Sean Price was most certainly the label’s flagship artist). It’s commendable that they haven’t changed all that much, but the underground of today isn’t the same as the underground of the early 2000s. Musically and lyrically, “Rise of Da Moon” is certainly a different album than their last release.
Produced entirely by Da Beatminerz (brothers Mr. Walt and Black Moon’s DJ Evil Dee), the grimy boom bap for which Black Moon is known for is here mostly in full-force. The opening track, “Creep Wit Me”, also serves as the album’s lead single. While Buck starts it off, it’s the near-unheralded 5 Ft. Accelerator who shows that he is still a small, but rabid animal on the mic. Da Beatminerz’ production on this track has a mellow and jazzy feel to it, the same goes for the following track, “Da Don Flow”. The third track, “Ahaaaa” is where things really begin to pick up. With the song’s title being chanted throughout in the form of a Latin choir, the production is harder than the previous two tracks in that it’s less jazzy and contains more street grime to create a real head-nodder.
From then on, the production remains on-point along with the group’s street braggadocio lyrics which are now coupled with the knowledge of hip-hop elder statesmen. The song “Pop Off” has the sound of a vintage 1970s TV theme for a cop drama. It contains gunshot and horn samples, enough to make the 5-Footer go sick when he starts the track off. In addition to the first two tracks, “General Feva” and “Look At Them” are also tracks that qualify as just OK. The former track is more notable for its organ sample and its short length. Also, they’ve enlisted guest rappers for this album, but not nearly as many as they have in years prior. Though they usually reserve guest spots for their Duck Down brethren (represented here by Smif-N-Wessun and the Rockness Monstah), the sole outsider here is Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man, who appears on “Ease Back”. The production consists of heavy snares and xylophone samples, and Method Man’s verse is full of sick wordplay conveyed through a dope flow. Though Buckshot and the 5-Footer kick their verses with General Steele on the hook, it’s Method Man who steals the show and drops the heavy load on the first verse:
The beats for the remainder of the album are well-crafted. “Impossible”, featuring Smif-N-Wessun, isn’t bad and the beat’s better than that of “Ease Back”. We get to hear a vintage Black Moon style of production on “Black Moon Rise”: DJ scratches, boom bap drums, and layered dusty samples. The track “At Night” is also another flash of the old Black Moon style, it’s like walking into a room with a smoky haze. “Children of the Night” and “Glory” are also noted for the catchy melodies of their production. The former utilizes vocal and music samples from a Stylistics song of the same name. With hard snares and dark strings, the Rockness Monstah lends his voice to the mic as he and Black Moon spit lyrics using wordplay related to the night and the dark. Which brings us to the latter song “Glory”. Built from an Electric Prunes sample, the track reminds me of Black Star’s “Astronomy (8th Light)” in that it beautifies all things Black.
Rounding out the album are “Pay Back”, “Roll Wit Me”, and “Time Flys”. The first track contains DJ scratching and ends with a guitar coda sample. Lyrically, Buck acknowledges his status as an elder statesman who talks shit, but also schools his younger surrogates at the same time. The second track features Tek from Smif-N-Wessun and the production has a Blaxploitation sound to it. “Time Flys” isn’t a bad closer, and its opening is reminiscent of that of the “Can’t You See” remix by Total. In summation, please don’t call “Rise of Da Moon” a comeback. Like James Todd Smith, Black Moon have been here for years and are continuing to make straight-up point-blank hip-hop music. While the album lacks the polish and flashiness of today’s more showy rappers, “Rise of Da Moon” still creates a “Total Eclipse” on most of those mainstream records.