In the dozen or so years since El Da Sensei was introduced to the world as one-half of The Artifacts, it seems like the New Jersey hip-hop multi-tasker has received more attention for what he once did than what he is currently doing. Questions about his professional breakup with Tame One and his history of bombing trains with a Krylon can appear to get more press than what is currently in the deck.
But then again, there are few things that hip-hoppers love more than conflict, rumors and endless digressions about how it was “back in the day.”
With all that said, The Unusual is a solid album chock full of reliable beats and consistent rhymes - something that you can’t expect from everybody in the game. As El said in his recent interview with HipHopSite.com, “I have people come up to me and say they have been listening to me since they were 10 years old and now they are 20 something. People grew up with my sound, so I cater to that sound and I’m not going to abandon that.”
From the opening track “Crowd Pleasa”, with its strong snare drum beat and boisterious rhymes, to “Blow Shit Up”, with the military-march beat and clever couplets, this guy proves he still knows how to spit a line or two. El also builds on his relationships with other tri-state area rappers by tapping O.C. (“Nuttin’ To Lose”) and Sean Price (“No Matter”) to appear on the record, giving more strength to The Unusual. His guest rappers go beyond cursory contributions and the album’s producers - including Illmind, Jake One, Saukrates, DJ Revolution, K-Def and J Rawls - more than deliver.
Few artists of El’s generation (Tame One included) have been able to sustain a presence and remain relevant. El, however, is of a special class of rappers who has a history that is deep-rooted in the four elements, which may be why he is held on a pedestal by the true blue hip-hoppers. This album is not Between A Rock And A Hard Place, but at the same time El is no longer the 20-something in the Hilfiger polo shirt with the marker in his sock. Remember that, kids, and go cop the album.
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