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1 January, 1999@12:00 am

Black Moon are hip-hop veterans, despite the fact that this is only their second album. After dropping the essential Enta Da Stage in 1993, which Billboard described as “hardcore jazz,” Black Moon chipped diamond quality remixes off the Enta Da Stage block like “I Got Cha Opin” and “Buck Em Down.” Of their sophomore effort, Warzone, I have some good news, and then I have some good news. The good news is that Black Moon squashed the label beef over the use of the name Black Moon. Thankfully, we no longer have to choke on the mouthful of Buckshot, 5 FT. & Evil Dee when referring to the group formerly known as Black Moon. And the good news is that Warzone is hot ta death.

Buckshot rides beats like a black cowboy. Consider Warzone his rodeo. Buckshot smashes conventional cadences and melds verses to fit them inside groove pockets. On “Two Turntables and a Mic,” Buckshot’s sing-song flow manages to rejuvenate the ubiquitous “Heartbeart;” his ability to locate and exploit the record’s un-mined funk showcases the versatility of Tanya Garner’s classic (yes, even considering that every rapper has sampled it). Buckshot’s lyrical partner, 5 FT., has pretty shitty luck. On Warzone, he finally gets some burn, and gets sent away for an “up north trip” right before it drops. He’ll be back soon, though. In the meantime, the chiseled vehemence he spits on “All Yall Niggaz” with Heather B will hold him down.

Black Moon actually conducts themselves like hip-hop veterans. Though many groups claim that their albums return to the original essence of hip-hop, Warzone actually does. “Evil Dee is on the Mix,” which sizzles with trembling bass, is a throwback to old school hip-hop, when MCs recognized their DJs by giving them entire tracks (remember “Chinese Arithmetic?”) and shared name billing (remember Eric B. AND Rakim?). “Two Turntables and a Mic” is a return to the fundamental primacy of the one DJ/one MC construction. During a recent New York performance, Buckshot yelled, “How many MCs got a DJ?” Well-let’s count ‘em: Guru, Buckshot,  . . . and, that’s really about it. Point well taken, Buckshot.

Perhaps money must have been a little tight, as these Bucktown brovas only snagged chorus appearances for Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes. “Onslaught” would have been just fine without Rhymes, though his hyper-kineticisms never hurt. Q-Tip, however, can do to little to save the bottomless “Show Down,” which may be the album’s weakest track.

The album is replete with sonic treats, from the mafia flick score whistle of “WhirlWind” (on which Buckshot rhymes, “Not an alcoholic but I sip liquid lyrics”), the raw lyricism of “Freestyle,” and the subdued bounce of “Shake Your Frame” with Cocoa Brovaz (on which Buckshot rhymes, “Hey, yo, this nigga ain’t worth my worst verse.”). Buckshot and 5 FT. reveal life’s tortures on “Weight of the World,” but Buckshot confess best on the thick-bassed “Duress”. With possessed precision similar to “Slave,” Buckshot asks, “Why the devil keep fuckin’ with me?” Who knows, Buck, but if you and your crew keep coming with the tight beats and lyrics, hip-hop heads will keep fuckin’ with you and the crew.

  Mixtape D.L.
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