What is a classic hip-hop record? As the Living Legends phrase it on the “Intro” track to their collective disc Classic, the term “classic” is something that is “generally recognized as excellent or authoritative, defying time, criticism, and fashion.” And with that firmly entrenched in their back pockets, the Legends, comprised of Murs, Sunspot, Scarub, Lucky.i.am, The Grouch, Bicasso, Eligh, and Aesop, set on creating something Classic and all its own.
While a good majority of hip-hop records are created, at best, in hollowed-out former rock ‘n roll studios or entrepreneur-built home studios, and, at worst, in the dingy basements of self-reflection and underground havens, the Living Legends created Classic live and in color from the island of Maui in Hawaii, not typically known for its deep hip-hop roots. The first single from the album, “Blast Your Radio,” pits an oddball sample and the cool boom-bap production of Madlib against the backdrop of the 8 emcees trading barbs on their pasts and the overall meaning of the topic at hand - classic (“Just because it’s retro, don’t mean that it’s classic, Just because it’s classic don’t mean it ain’t brand new.”)
The feel-good vibes of Classic (and Maui) continue on tracks like “Good Fun,” where the uptempo and upbeat hand-claps provide the perfect setting for the boys to harp on rapping for fun and making beautiful music. Even when the guys put the happy-go-lucky material to the side though, tracks like the vintage “Never Fallin’,” about withstanding adversity and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, and “Fears and Pain (Neverendingstreets),” with its’ addictive Eligh-produced baby vocals on the hook, both show that the Legends may be rapping in Maui but still know a thing or two about problems.
“Even though it didn’t last, a day don’t go past, that I don’t think about getting back with your ass,” Murs raps on “Even Though (I Still Love You),” the love song with-a-twist about a boy and losing his love, another creative attempt by the Legends at creating something from a new point-of-view. But even when they stick with the norm, like bringing up the past to girls on “Busted,” a very Dr. Dre-esque production effort from The Grouch, the Legends do so with a style that still tends to be hard to fit within the contexts of one box.
The trouble of keeping track of 8 rapping counterparts and the sometimes exhaustively lengthy tracks aside, Classic is a worthy extension of the Living Legends California crew that has gradually expanded and extended from the early ’90s to this point. It may not be the classic record that rappers and producers search for so effortlessly these days, but Classic more than helps to capture the beauty and pristine nature seen throughout the Maui landscape. Call it Maui for the ears. Classic is beautiful.
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