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30 October, 2007@11:00 pm

Is it really necessary to start your hip hop album with a disclaimer? “This album is intended for those who ride with their doors open, blow purple, and wear over-sized sunglasses…” is the satirical warning issued at the beginning of It’s Whateva the latest album from Fairfield, California rappers Federation. Backed by the trunk rattling productions of hyphy music pioneer Rick Ross, the Bay area trio succeeds in delivering a wise-cracking album that continues to define the Northern California sound.

Rick Rock isn’t an official member of the group, but his neck-snapping productions are the most appealing aspect of this album. Hyphy is not a style known for its lyricism, but the three emcees hold up their end of the bargain by delivering intense lyrics with a distinct Bay Area aesthetic. They attempt to keep content fresh, but Federation eventually find themselves rhyming about tired topics like rims (“My Rimz”), intoxication (“Got Me Fucked Up”), and baby’s daddies (“New Baby Daddy”). But hey, this is hyphy music, not neo soul, so these odes to deviance are to be expected in order for credibility to be maintained.

Check the E-40 collaboration “Scaper 2 A Benz” and its addictive minimal production. E-40 comes weaker than usual, but the Federation boys pick up the slack and exploit the opportunity to outshine the West Coast legend, which furthers their reputation as one of the Bay Area’s finest new groups. “From to the Bay” leans heavy on the synths, and its stutter step, hand clap infused drums create certified rider music for those hazy nights in the 707. Repeatedly yelling “I’m from the Bay nigga” is also a surefire way to catch some hometown support.

Like all regional sounds, there is a ‘typical’ way for a song to sound so it can be classified as such. 90s New York rap was classified by the boom bap drum structure, and the ‘dirty south’ style is easily identified by simple 3 or four note synth progressions. Well, hyphy has a typical sound too, and “Get Naked Beezy” is the manifestation of that style. After one listen, you’ll understand why the warning at the beginning of the record recommended opening your car doors and smoking purp. The chanting, the video game synths, and the stunna van references embody the hyphy culture to the fullest.

The energy of It’s Whateva takes a noticeable plunge in the second half of the record, and instead of inserting more typical hyphy tracks to wake up the listener, Federation drops two pseudo-metal meets crunk things, which certainly aren’t songs by any means of the definition. Don’t abandon hope too soon though, because the first two verses of “Bang Bang” flow better than any other track on the album.

Even though there are a few obvious missteps, Federation deliver enough bangers on It’s Whateva to ensure that fans of hyphy will continue to check for their releases. The album lacks an overall cohesion, but its uptempo singles should carry the weight while the group finds its collective intention. – Chris Seeger

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