Loosely based upon the late 70′s Sly Stallone film of the same name, Cage quickly follows up his hailed debut album, Movies For The Blind, along with Def Jux squad-car partner Camu Tao, with The Nighthawks.
While other conceptual hip-hop albums have sounded better on paper than they did inside the headphones (Prince Among Thieves, Black Trash, etc), Cage and Camu’s “bad-cop thrill ride for the entire family” actually surprises, going above and beyond the call of duty. As a matter of fact, it ventures outside of Cage’s usual horror movie steez (a good thing), as well as veering from Camu’s more raw, experimental style, and sticks to the script, as simply 14 tracks of two crooked cops abusing their badges, doing strip searches and sniffing the evidence. While hardly a political statement of any kind, it’s more of what would probably really happen if Cage and Camu went out and jacked a cop car & some uniforms, Grand Theft Auto style.
The nice thing about this album is that it doesn’t dip right back into the producer’s pool of Movies From the Blind, but instead proposes what Cage and Camu might sound like over some darker, more thugged out NYC beats (think 3rd album Mobb Deep). From the trashy 80′s backdrop of “N.R.A.” into the addicting Alchemist-like pianos of “The Trailor” (with hilarious ad-libs from Cage), it’s immediately evident that this is a different type of album. Following these two excellent appetizers, Cage and Camu deliver a nice cover on Mobb Deep’s obscure Primo track, “Cop Hell”, which works surprisingly well, then straight back into cheesily delicious 80′s soundtrack of “Keep The City Up”. Peaking at “Police Crime”, where these two bad lieutenants join up with private Dick Starbuck for some sleazy Smut Peddling, just as we like it.
While few of the joints on Nighthawks are stale (“Car Chase”, “Count Crackula”), this album satisfies right down to the last joint (“Street Poly”), especially considering it never strays off course. Chalk up another winner from the ever-improving Eastern Conference Records.
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