Hartford, CA’s Blacastan is a relic of the old school, one that missed out on participating in hip-hop’s golden age, after being locked up on drug-dealing charges in the 90′s at 16 years old. While inside, he studied underground hip-hop and honed his craft as an emcee, unexposed to the watered down styles of rap that are seen just about everywhere in the outside world. That being said, his official full-length debut, Black Sabbath – the follow-up to his buzzworthy mixtape-albums, Master of Reality and Me Against The Radio, presents interesting mystique for this Steve Rogers-esque man-out-of-time.
Black Sabbath is a mix of creative conceptual records and raw street tales, boasting production from Statik Selektah, ColomBeyond, Blue Sky Black Death, and DJ Doom. The production is raw as any 90′s hip-hop record, grabbing you instantly with the perfectly executed “Blac Sabbath (Intro)”, where he suggests “I’ll probably get sued for using this sample / that’s the cross that I bear for this breath of fresh air…”. He grabs the listener’s attention from the beginning, with tightly produced tracks like “The Dice Life”, where he rhymes from the perspective of “a dice being rolled” or “3010″, a humorous look at the future with Celph Titled and Esoteric. “Cratediggaz” also stands out, as he and producer/emcee ColomBeyond , a love-letter to the art of digging, which is instantly validated by the track’s gorgeous sampled horn section.
Blac spends a good portion of the LP in more familiar territory, weaving vivid street stories over gritty production. This end of the album does have some moments of greatness – namely “The World”, which cinematically captures the struggle, beautifully animated by ColomBeyond’s track, or “How Can You Be So Sure”, where he rhymes from beyond the grave after being killed in the street. On the flipside of that coin, the album is weighed down by many average moments in it’s 18-track tenure. “City To City”, for instance finds him spitting a requisite hook made up of elements that we’ve heard a million times before: “From city to city, state to state, this goin’ out to all my hustlers moving that weight / LA, Detroit, New York, Chi-Town… / We lockin’ it down”. The same can be said to an extent of “Anything Less”, which hook boasts “We hustle hard for the paper to get it (get money!)” etc, etc. While his Exorcist sampled “Darc Crystal” is a bit of stretch, likening street life to “some Lord Of The Rings shit” (?), his classic mixtape favorite, “The Life Of A Tape” appears here, still acting as one of his greatest works as he chronicles the lifespan of this forgotten medium.
Blacastan is a true talent in today’s undergound, possessing the kind of authenticity that cannot be faked, and can be liked to MF Doom as sort of an aging b-boy finding his place in hip-hop late in the game. While the album’s lengthy 17 tracks could have been cut down a bit in terms of quality control, Black Sabbath is a strong, yet somewhat faulted LP, that shows potential for greatness to come.
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