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20 May, 2003@12:00 am

Though still without a “proper” debut, Phil Da Agony has injected himself into every nook and cranny of Cali’s underground scene.  From various freestyles, to guest appearances, to his Likwit Crew membership, Phil has managed to appear everywhere underneath the warm California sun. 

Although Smokefest can be considered Phil’s freshmen solo endeavor, this self-released endeavor sure doesn’t show it.  He let’s vets know how to open up an LP with “Blunted”, a lyrically thick track that weds raw verbalistics with a swaggering flute in the backdrop.  Fortunately, the pace rarely slows from there, as Phil picks up right where he left off, with Likwit co-member, Defari, on “Clear The Lane”.  The cut features hauntingly wonderful key drops over rumbling drum kicks, giving both Likwit brethren the opportunity to let lose on wack emcees.  Defari takes charge of the song with his verbal assault, “Fuck lunch/I’ve been hungry/starving like a vulture/I dedicate myself/to elevate the culture…”

Not forsaking any opportunities to show crew love, Phil Da Agony continues to integrate his brethren on the hot potato mic session, “Likwit Crew Connection” and “Live At Master Control” which features Krondon, Chace Infinite, Dilated Peoples, and Jurassic 5 going line for line over an ever so soulful sample over a crisp boom bap. 

While there are a plethora of guest spots, Phil does go for dolo on four different freestyle sessions, including “Phil The Agony Freestyle 2″, where he spits, “We roll tight/with the right recognition/on a mission/you get knocked out of position/at nights/late night/breathing on the mic/with the jaws of life/on the cordless mic/called it the heights/that’s right/South Crescent Heights intoxicated/Dilated/reinstated/on paper/over qualified/making y’all catch up to us/popular/watchin’ ya/right on top of ya…”

Yet, underneath the pillows of smoke and gutted dutches that Smokefest leaves in its wake are a few plodding efforts that fail to resound; including the contrived “Train Hard” “Nucleus”, “Give It Up” and the gimmicky “Watch Out”.  The latter, is the album’s lone lyrically deficient cut, as Phil spouts out repeated warnings to listeners.  However, Phil compensates for these missteps with the 808 kick of “Classical Hits” w/ Planet Asia and King Tee (I smell a comeback) assisted “Back Up” where a prodding chime is combined with an eerie bass line. While Smokefest isn’t thought provoking, Phil comes off as the Left Coast’s answer to Redman —-dope lyrics, hard production, and pure entertainment.  Sometimes, that’s enough!!

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