The Cunninlynguists first emerged on the scene in 2001, just after the beginning of the indie hip-hop boom that saw the creation of labels like Stones Throw and Definitive Jux. Their first record, Will Rap For Food, was backpack rap defined, as the spotlight shined on core members Deacon The Villain and Kno, as well as on-again, off-again guests Mr. SOS and Tonedeff. While the group’s revolving-door roster has been confusing at times, only recently have they nailed-down a definitive line-up, with the release of 2006′s A Piece of Strange, which found the group consisting of Kno, Deacon, and Natti. Arguably the record that defined the group as to what it is today, it took them back to their Southern roots, without dumbing-down the content, like much of the current popular music from the region.
Dirty Acres picks up right where A Piece Of Strange left off, a goes even deeper south, if you can imagine. The group has almost outgrown it’s overly backpack moniker, not even placing its name on the cover, and at times referring to themselves on record simply as “C.L”. Dirty Acres is a heavily southern record, seemingly inspired by records like Outkast’s ATLiens with its super-chilled out sound and undeniably slow southern burn, complete with twangy guitar licks and soulful gospel vocals. At first listen, everything sort of bleeds into each other, leaving little distinction between each song. This is mainly due to the fact that Kno handles production reigns on the entire record, but it’s clear that he had a vision for the unfied sound of the LP, as consecutive listens give each song its own identity.
The LP opens with the poetic “Never”, where Dungeon Family poet Big Rube introduces the album over a set of somber pianos, speaking on the state of hip-hop. “Valley Of Death” follows, the first true song on the album, as Deacon and Natti spit politically charged rhymes. Racial tensions are brought to the surface on both “K.K.K.Y.” and “Georgia” – two songs that examine the not-so-friendly relations between blacks and whites in the group’s respective backyards. “Gun” continues the trend, as the CL’s and Shiesty Khrist speak on police brutality (and murder, actually), over rolling Latin guitars and a trademark Kno chipmunked hook.
Much of the album is spent venting frustrations, and Kno’s melancholy production is the perfect backdrop – yet not to the point where it’s sleepy. The title track “Dirty Acres” is a mellow Cadillac groove, which examines the ups and downs of daily life, working as the perfect backdrop for sex, smokes, or sittin’ on spinners – take your pick. So, in a sense, imagine Public Enemy, if they were really laid-back and country.
But things aren’t all bad. “The Park (Fresh Air)” is a relaxing joint, which finds the two vividly describing the scene of a summer day over a breezy beat and breathy hook from sultry French mademoiselle. “Wonderful” follows, finding the crew teaming with Devin The Dude, collectively seducing the ladies with their words. “Yellowlines” continues the trend, as Witchdoctor and Phonte join in with exemplary results. Phonte’s standout verse shows his ability to adapt to any style of beat, and suggests that a collaborative LP with Kno could be the makings of a classic record. But we can only wish….(and suggest).
Dirty Acres is arguably the crew’s most solid record to date. The days of attempting to make a record with the formula of punchy metaphors and head-nodding beats are over, as the crew has evolved into something much greater than simply “underground group # 42033″. Pick up Dirty Acres, slow down, chill out, let it seep in, and become one of your favorite hip-hop records of the year. – Pizzo
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