Call it resilience or call it stubbornness, but MC/producer Capital D and DJ Tone B. Nimble of All Natural have not sacrificed their independent spirit and uplifting approach for anyone. Seven years after kicking down the doors of the underground with their unforgettable debut, No Additives, No Preservatives, this dynamic yet under-appreciated Chicago duo return with their third album, Vintage. While Cap has always utilized a conscious, ‘keep right’ mindset, he sounds noticeably wiser on this outing and determined as ever to keep hip-hop all natural.
The album’s intro, “Start the Revolution,” presents one of the strongest statements throughout, as a sample of The Last Poets resounds loud and clear: “Speak not of revolution until ya’ll willing to eat rats to survive.” With every rapper screaming revolution in the underground these days, this reality check certainly puts the pseudo rebels in their place. Cap and Tone B., now in their 30s, still occasionally make time to call out misguided MCs (see the bouncy “The Avenger is Back” for proof), but their primary focus has shifted to more vital matters: community pride, achieving longevity in hip-hop, finding true love, and possessing knowledge of self to name a few.
While All Natural is often intent on staying on-point and creating change, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to have a good time. On “Corner Pocket” the Jungle Brothers and Cap D come together to share thoughts on making moves over Andy C’s extra funky production. With its sing-a-long chorus and upbeat sentiment, this is a proper alliance of the original Native Tounges crew and a couple of their most talented disciples. On Cap D’s self-produced, up-tempo cut “Heel-Toe,” he brilliantly uses a vocal sample (“Put your left foot up and then your right foot next”) as an advisory for reckless MCs to put their best foot forward. The oft-silent Tone B. even speaks up on this album when he plays call and response (a la A Tribe Called Quest) with Cap on the mellow “Check The Time,” which is sure to become a future All Natural classic. In contrast, when they return to an old classic on the sequel to the anti-gold digger anthem “Queens Get the Money,” they fail to recreate the essence of the potent, Panik-produced original.
Relying much less on the sure shot production of the Molemen, All Natural reaches out to relatively unknown (outside of Chicago) local talent like Kenny Keys and Stoney Rock. The beats of the Molemen’s Panik and Memo are definitely missed here, but the seemingly risky decision to enlist new talent almost always pays off. While Kenny Keys’ beats are much more laid-back than those of most All Natural tracks, they definitely fit the whole Vintage theme well. Meanwhile Dug Infinite (of Common fame) cooks up a few hot instrumentals himself?especially on the soulful “Keep It Movin” featuring El da Sensai and Allstar.
All Natural proves that you don’t have to be uptight to be righteous. But despite sticking to his guns and having fun, Cap is clearly dealing with the repercussions of keeping it true. On the candid “New Dawn,” he asks: “How can I turn my way of living into a salary?” This is a question that many underground and independent acts ask themselves daily. Hopefully, Capital D and Tone B. Nimble won’t have to be asking it much longer as this is arguably their best all-around album to date.
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