The self-proclaimed world’s greatest producer J. Rawls and the legendary Beat Junkies member DJ Rhettmatic combined back in February for “Role Reversal”, a record that I just can’t leave in 2023. It took me back to those classic Soundbombing compilations. Plenty of scratching, hard beats, and guests providing welcome reminders that they can still replicate those heady times, over two decades later. It’s the type of record you can just play straight through, with plenty of moments to keep you returning.
I hadn’t heard from Trek Life in a minute and he rips up “Play Your Position” with Supastition. The latter was on the rampage throughout 2023, and listening to the way both emcees dive in and out of the drum pattern is admirable, and easily taken for granted. In addition to this, the display of turntablism at the end of the track feels uncharacteristically modern, simply because it’s a rare treat these days. Oh how I’ve missed these compilation style records. And that’s perhaps the albums main flaw – it’s only thirty two minutes when previously, this would have been a CD at twice the length.
El Da Sensei and Sadat X – two of hip-hop’s best voices – rhyme in harmony on “Doty X & The Sen” to the point where I want to revisit their 2018 joint effort “XL”. These two emcees rarely get their props, but over the correct production, they sound magnificent. Another elder statesman who decides to make a statement is Craig G. On the title track, he tears a wonderfully straightforward set of horns and drums to shreds with his “pinpoint accurate flow”.
“Rawlsmatic” may have a dumb name (and has nothing to do with “Illmatic”) but it’s hip-hop at its purest. A record you can just play straight through, with plenty of moments to keep you returning. Each year we are inundated with an endless slew of throwback boom-bap-themed releases, but this one knows when to refrain from bombarding the listener with hollow “real rhymes” and jaded nostalgia plays. If you can’t get with a rabid Blu sharing the mic with the hilariously frank Ras Kass, over a dirty beat from the Beat Junkies’ basement, you may want to reconsider your role as a rap fan.