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by Andreas Hale
26 November, 2006@12:00 am
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   If there ever was an award for the dopest emcee who never got the credit he deserved, it would have to go to AZ. While it can be argued that AZ has never lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him after his scathing verse on Nas’ “Life’s A Bitch”, AZ has always been lyrically inclined. Unfortunately he hasn’t been critically acclaimed. But instead of giving up, AZ has decided to step back into the game with The Format.

    Anthony Cruz is at an age where there isn’t any room for failure. If he was to drop an album considered “wack,” then that would be the proverbial nail in the coffin for his career. But fear not because AZ’s latest endeavor is not wack by any means, but still doesn’t give a clear understanding of how great AZ is as an artist.

   AZ has always been a dope emcee and The Format continues to showcase this point. Joints like “Make Me” (produced by Emile) and “Animal” display his poignancy for wordplay. “This Is What I Do” shines brilliantly as AZ speaks on behalf of hip-hop as a representative deserving of that title. Another highlight on the album is the Little Brother assisted “Rise and Fall”. As Big Pooh and Phonte lament about the rise and fall of the hip hop artist, AZ comes in with a scathing verse about the rise and fall of the hustler. All three emcees deliver hip hop quotable worthy verses with Phonte’s being the most personal of the set.  

   The strangest moment that clearly buries any momentum that AZ had was the absolutely horrific “Doing That”. It is clear what AZ is trying to do here with this absolutely abysmal attempt at a club song, featuring Dip Set’s Jha Jha no less. It is just a flat out a stinker that damn near knocked a half an “@” off the rating by itself.  Other songs like “Get High” are just so unoriginal that they hurt.

    With The Format, AZ doesn’t exercise his full potential and just when he gains momentum, he does something that makes it fall flat. And that pretty much sums up AZ’s career as a whole – always an incredible emcee that has never been able to put it all together. Maybe one day he will break this pattern, but until then The Format more or less proves to be another pleasing listen for AZ fans.

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