When Al Tariq (aka Kool Fash) left The Beatnuts after their self-titled full-length debut, it felt like a devastating blow to the group’s then uncertain future. After all, they had just dropped a classic EP and LP back-to-back, and suddenly, the third-of-the-trio packed it up to pursue a solo career. However as the years go on, and The Nuts continue to release albums, Fash almost ends up being more like the lost fifth Beatle, slowly fading into obscurity. After all, while Tariq as there for their two most critically acclaimed releases, he wasn’t there for their most successful releases, such as the dancefloor packing “Off The Books”, with an open spot that the late great Big Pun was more than happy to fill. With Milk Me marking the 10th release in their catalog, Psycho Les and Juju prove once again that they can hold down The Beatnuts legacy just fine, even if only as a duo.
While Milk Me is the group’s second independent release, following 2002′s The Originators, it finds the Nuts literally hungrier than ever, trying to balance their rugged Corona-Queens sound with the dominant commercial sounds of today. The album opens with “Hot”, an obnoxious Greg Nice led anthem sure to incite riots at any Queens thug convention, but one that may have trouble getting the same reaction elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Nuts do come with the friendlier rockabilly hip-hop joint (a first), “Find Us (ft. Akon) (In The Back Of The Club)”, an uptempo 50′s throwback with millennial mindset, as Akon’s breezy hook animates their longtime desires to fuck, drink beer, and smoke some shit. While longtime listeners might now know whether to cringe or sing-along to “Find Us”, it certainly fares much better than some of the other commercial attempts included here. “Madness” struggles for definition with its Roger Troutman-esque synth hook, while both “All Night” and “Freak Off” (especially the latter) are drowned out by R&B singer, Chris Chandler’s war with harmony. Still, while at times, Milk is more watered down than your average Nuts album, who can blame them for having chips on their shoulders after Jennifer Lopez’s jacking of “Off The Books” for “Jenny From The Block”? The very issue is addressed on one of the LP’s best tracks, “Confused Rappers”, where Les and Juju lash out at J-Lo and the “Trashmasters”, with bonus beef from Rahzel, who clowns on other no-talents who overpay for beats.
It’s tracks like “Confused Rappers” that show the Nuts in their element, and they aren’t afraid to tap some A-grade talent to help fill in the blanks when needed. The 70′s swagger of “Buggin’ (ft. Prince Whipper Whip) ” amazingly drags Prince Whipper Whip out of retirement, while “It’s Nothing” does the same for disappearing/reappearing D.I.T.C. rapper, A.G. - both who have no problem dusting off their mics and fitting right in. “Uh Huh” is one of the album’s best lyrical free-for-alls, where Tony Touch and Gab Gotcha compete for the top spot over an infectious beat described by Toca as “Se Acabo meets motherfuckin’ Prendelo”. Freeway shows up for “U Knomsayin”, stealing the show on this cool, late night city beat, while Milano helps out on the bluesy head-nodder, “Down”. While the guests do outshine Les and Juju from time-to-time, it’s a wonder that more rappers aren’t tapping them for beats these days, as their tracks easily make their fellow emcees sound great on the mic.
While the subject matter hasn’t changed over ten years, the Beatnuts remain true to their craft, despite an occasional drab track or lame commercial outing. Fact remains, The Beatnuts are some of the only people in hip-hop who can say they produced their entire album by themselves, even sewing it together with those fat little interludes. Heads will argue as to which post-Fashion Beatnuts album is the best, and while this might not be it, it still shows that group’s hearts are in the right places. Take a sip of Milk and decide for yourself.
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