This mismatched group of intimidating, scary white dudes pulls it’s origins from many different areas in the hip-hop landscape, all tied together by former House Of Pain hype man, Danny Boy. Danny brought along Everlast and DJ Lethal from the L.A. set, while bringing Non-Phixion’s Ill Bill and Boston super-emcee Slaine to represent the east coast set. Tied together with additional contributions from Cypress Hill / Soul Assassins family members B-Real, DJ Muggs, and Psycho Realm, the end result is La Coka Nostra, a group of tough guys you surely wouldn’t want to catch a beat down from.
In many cases, the idea of a super-group never comes to fruition, it just creates a lot of hype, and usually a handful of dope posse cuts that never amount to a full length. We’ve all been excited by the ideas of Golden State Warriors (Xzibit, Ras Kass, Saafir), Murder Inc (Jay-Z, Ja Rule, & DMX), CRS (Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell), The Orphanage (Aesop Rock, Slug, Blueprint, Eyedea), and the list goes on. History has shown us some success with full-length records released by each The Gravediggaz, Dr. Octagon, The Firm and most recently Slaughterhouse. La Coka Nostra – a group with so many members it seemed impossible – can also be added to that list.
In theory, this seems like a perfect idea for these artists to reinvent themselves. Considering that some of the older members of this crew are well past their prime, it doesn’t hurt them to be collaborating with today’s younger talent. Say what you will about Everlast, for instance, but the man has transcended his humble beginnings in Rhyme Syndicate, blew the door open with House of Pain, and flipped the script completely with his Whitey Ford projects. La Coka Nostra is no different, as he once again finds a niche for himself, treading the line between blues-singer (“The Stain”, “Cousin Of Death”) and pistol-packing, Illuminati-fearing, street-hop emcee. His presence hear rounds out the group as a whole, lending a brand of soul to the music that saves it from simply being a collection of posse cuts.
Slaine is the other stand out artist of the crew, who’s wicked Bah-stin accent and intricately penned poetics help him steal the show every time (“Hardcore Chemical”, “Brujeria”). With so many members however, it does make it harder for everyone to shine. While Danny Boy is the founder of the group, and does hold it down next to his peers, at times he gets lost in the shuffle. Ill Bill on the other hand, what he lacks the poetic brilliance of Slaine or the old soul of Everlast, he makes up for in his over-the-top, politically-incorrectness (“Fuck Tony Montana”) and conspiracy theorizing (“I’m An American”).
While the album has a solid string of concepts and well written songs, where it falls short is in the production. Considering DJ Muggs was an original member of this group, his absence here speaks very loudly as the other producers pick up the slack. DJ Lethal heads up most of the production, while second-tier producers like Q-Unique, Sicknature, and Cynic handle the rest, but this group of multi-talented emcees deserves better. The lone Alchemist track, “Choose Your Side” (feat. Bun B) steals the show, with a night-and-day difference in production value, as Al’s hypnotic, middle-eastern tinged track is easily the best song on the album.
Additional guest spots from B-Real (“I’m An American”) and Snoop Dogg (“Bang Bang”) help round the project out, but at the end of the day, something seems missing. Much of the group’s previously recorded material released before the album outshines what’s here, however it’s surprising and equally impressive that they were able to complete this album in the first place. Whether in the sum of it’s parts or equally as a whole, still, La Coka Nostra more or less lives up to their promise. – DJ Pizzo
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