With an album title lifted straight from the notepad of Vinnie Paz, Recognize Ali caught me off guard with this one. He’s been improving year-on-year, ever since he rapped alongside two heavyweights in Verbal Kent and Sonnyjim on the Dueling Experts albums. For the uninitiated, Ali is vocally akin to a grimier Killah Priest, which itself is some statement. Performances aren’t quite as vitriolic, but he has that same dismissive demeanour, as he stomps all over beats like they’re dirty doormats.

Let’s get the negative parts out of the way first. The moments where Ali tries to pander to the styles of the day, “As You Sow So Shall You Reap” drifts into sounding like countless other records in this category. “Business Never Personal” might suit Rome Streetz but plods too much for my liking. The other video single “Veteranos” is the only other track I was underwhelmed by, and it’s because the production doesn’t fit. The rest of the album is hugely satisfying, real fire-in-the-belly, punch-your-mother-in-law-in-the-face music. “Death Machine” doesn’t hide its horrorcore influences, with its morbid piano and cries of “Kill kill kill”. Recognize Ali comes closer than I anticipated to releasing one of 2024’s more memorable projects, because, when paired with the pacier production, his wickedly dark and nasty rap style is a real force.

“Day of Reckoning” is mean, as D-Styles cuts up Mobb Deep over a pounding backdrop. “I’m known to bring the pain on every joint like arthritis” the Ghanain shares, convincingly, as he drags the listener through yet another lyrical beatdown. D-Styles can also be found tearing up the turntables on the deadly “Neighborhood Grim Reaper” – I’d love to hear the two work on a full project together:

There’s little substance throughout songs named “Death Machine” or “The Genocider”. Ali just wants to cause damage, and his menacing presence excels when the beats knock and the scratches cut so precisely. Unlike what felt like a mismatch of Da Flyy Hooligan’s boastful bravado with the Beat Junkies modern boom-bap, this combo proves more effective. “Slay”, with DJ Grazzhoppa, is a simple premise done a million times before, yet I can’t stop playing it. The same with “Toasters”, a vicious assault that sets the scene for the rest of the album, with a direct-to-the-point hook:

It’s no doubt that I choke them out
Many lose their lives from the things that they joke about
Your neck is THIS close to a cobra’s mouth
It goes south when we let the fuckin’ toasters out

Chill, son. There’s some solid hook work on “Fish Stew” too, as he ironically says “Keep cool” before going ape-shit, particularly on the breathless second verse.

Recognize Ali possesses a hefty catalog for someone still building their brand in the industry, debuting barely a decade ago. His style suits posse cuts and collaborations, but with next to no guests here, we’re treated to a relentless onslaught of tough, testosterone-filled (and fuelled) braggadocio rap. The bloke sounds possessed, like an animal hard to restrain, and with “As You Sow So Shall You Reap” he’s frequently hard to resist, guaranteed to get your blood pumping.

Recognize Ali :: As You Sow So Shall You Reap
8Overall Score