6 May, 2003@12:00 am
Back in 1993, two New York-based super-groups burst onto the scene and changed the Hip-Hop world dramatically. One was Wu-Tang Clan, the other Boot Camp Clik, and together they ushered in an era of dirty beats and raw rhymes that helped to revitalize the Big Apple in the face of a flourishing West Coast. Ten years later, another Hip-Hop collective is poised for attack and though the current over-saturation of the rap market will prevent them from having the same affect the Wu or BCC did, Hip-Hop heads should still beware – there’s been an Escape From Monsta Island.
Fronted by the of late omnipresent MF Doom AKA King Ghidra, the nine man M.I.C. (Monsta Island Czars) unit combines the multiple personalities and obscure references of Wu-Tang with the hardcore street feel of Boot Camp – which isn’t to say that the M.I.C. crew sounds at all similar to either group. With each monster sporting his own unique flow – from Rodan’s rapid-fire delivery to Megalon’s multi-syllables to Ghidra’s crooning to Spiga’s ultra-deep voice – the Czars make for one of the most diverse teams in all of rap, sounding unlike each other let alone anybody else. Tying up that wide variety of styles is X-Ray, who laces most of the album’s beats, possibly to the dismay of those hoping for more Ghidra production (he handles a handful of tracks). Fortunately, X-Ray’s stripped down boom-bap offerings stand up well on their own (most notably “F@#k Y’all N!@@#s”, “Under Pressure”, and “Gunz ‘n’ Swordz”).
Ghidra still makes an impact on Escape despite his limited role, contributing to several of the album’s standout songs. Hitting the boards more than he does the microphone, his beat highlights include “Make It Squash! (Got a ROC)”, “1 2 1 2″, “Escape From Monster Isle”, and a peculiar co-production with Da Mindbender (“Comin’ At You”) that wouldn’t sound out of place blasting somewhere on Crenshaw. Especially nice is “MIC Line” with its frantic loop and on-point wack emcee bashing: “Start too many songs with ‘Uh / oh uh’ / Yeah I hear ya soldier / I told ya / like no duh.” With Ghidra touching the mic only once, the album’s spotlight falls upon the other members of the Czars and they don’t waste the opportunity to shine, showing excellent chemistry in ripping their verses (Megalon, Rodan, Kamackeris, and Kong are given the most time and use it well however everyone comes off nicely). While the numerous posse-cuts do get a bit redundant, the diversity of styles and never-ending parade of arcane allusions (Jake La Motta, Rebecca Lobo, their own monster aliases, etc.) are interesting enough to keep things from ever getting boring.
Although a few more solo tracks and an appearance from Jet Jaguar (his absence is understandable) would have been nice, Escape From Monsta Island can still be considered an emphatic success. While they may not have entered the stage the same way the Wu and Black Moon did, the Czars show signs of possessing the same intangible qualities that made those groups so revered; more than just skill, it’s a personality and uniqueness that can’t be duplicated. To hear the escape was fun enough; the attack will be something to really look forward to.
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