Take notice of a common trend in hip-hop music. Every year, a “new” artist or producer gets enough of a buzz surrounding them, that every label is asking them to hop on a remix or guest appear on some other artist’s record. Right now, Xzibit and Rockwilder fall into this category; a few years ago it was Canibus, and in the early 90′s just after the birth of Cypress Hill, it was DJ Muggs. In 1992, finding a Soul Assassins remix on the back of say, a Beastie Boys 12″, was just as common as finding one on the b-side of a single from Da Lench Mob, ironically enough.
But, as time passes, and the industry decides that you’re not “hot” anymore, those opportunities to do remixes and guest shots stop coming around, just ask The Beatnuts or Pete Rock. Nevertheless, while the Soul Assassins weren’t being tapped for remixes after Cypress Hill’s success with “Insane In The Brain” and their second album, Black Sunday, it didn’t stop Muggs from making killer beats for everyone involved. The often fronted on House of Pain and Funkdoobiest built careers off Muggs’ brilliant beats, both who coincidentally fell the fuck off after he stopped producing for them. After Cypress Hill began to lose popularity with their third release, Muggs managed to still keep heads ringing with the original Soul Assassins compilation, a joint effort between himself and silent collaborator, The Alchemist, which turned out some incredible collaborations with members of The Wu-Tang Clan , Goodie Mob , Dr. Dre and even bringing out the ol’ tiger in MC Ehit.
Muggs’ follow-up disc attempts to create the same magic found on the slept on debut release, and does so, but not without fault. First let it be said that two of the potentially greatest songs of the year are included on this album, and are worth the price of the album alone. Muggs sets up about-to-blow emcees Kool G Rap and Xzibit beautifully on both “Real Life” and “You Better Believe”, respectively. These two tracks show what happens when incredible emcees rhyme on incredible beats, evoking the musical equivalent of fire.
Yet, this album is at times awkward, such is the case on the GZA/Genius featured “When The Fat Lady Sings”, one of Muggs’ new keyboard fueled tracks that seems a bit out of place next to a majority of sample driven grooves. Other times it’s hard to fully absorb Muggs gorgeous production, as the listener is stuck trying to get used to the new voices of oddball members of Infamous Mobb , Screwball , and the Cali underground.
But when the pros get on, it’s all gravy. Goodie Mob blend right in Muggs’ production, serving up a tasty dish of blunted soul food on “This Some’n To”. The ever-improving Dilated Peoples lend their talents to the obvious Alchemist banger “Suckers Are Hidin’”, that builds itself up with an addictive cymbal pattern. The spaghetti-westernized sound creeps in on both B-Real’s “Don’t Trip”, and Kurupt’s “When The Pain Inflict”, making both artists shine their brightest yet.
But just as Kurupt stands out on the aforementioned cut, he sounds completely out of place on the pointless “Armageddon” interlude. This in fact is the defining condition of the entire album. When it’s hot, it’s hot – but when it’s not, it’s not. Truth be told, you’ll find beautiful beats on this album, and in fact some of the strongest tracks of the year on it, you just may have to sift through a few weirder selections to get there. But given that this is an album spotlighting production rather than rhymes, the quality is there, and the Soul Assassins brand name should have no problem reappearing on b-sides everywhere.
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