6 October, 2010@4:00 am
While Ski Beatz might not be a household name among hip-hop heads, he has without a doubt made his mark on the industry. Most famously, he produced much of Jay-Z’s classic debut album, Reasonable Doubt, as well as Camp Lo’s Uptown Saturday Night. He also started his own offshoot of Roc-A-Fella Records, Roc-A-Blok Records, which saw the hit single “Cheapskate” by Sporty Thievz.
He’s looked to re-enter the rap game in a big way lately, working with Dame Dash’s new DD172 imprint, first producing Curren$y’s critically acclaimed Pilot Talk LP, and now releasing the long-awaited 24 Hour Karate School mixtape-album. The concept behind the album was for Ski to showcase his production studio, employing a team of live musicians and emcees, both established and up-and-coming.
Anticipation for this release was at an all time high around the beginning of 2010, boasting tracks with Mos Def, Jean Grae, Curren$y, Camp Lo, The Cool Kids, Jay Electronica, Ras Kass, and more. With a dream team cast, fans eagerly awaited the release of the slated-to-be free mixtape, but kept getting delayed over and over. Finally, we saw a late September release date for it, but somethings had changed: it was now a retail product, and was now missing the four songs recorded with Mos Def.
While clearance issues kept Def from appearing on the final product, fans got a taste of Def’s participation on the album, as all four songs were leaked by Ski prior to the release. What we get instead is a paired down version of the LP, with a price tag attached.
It’s not to say that this album completely falls apart without Def’s appearances, but considering he is the most consistent and arguably talented artist on the record, his absence is definitely felt. The album’s greatest accomplishments – Mos Def’s “Taxi” and “Cream of The Planet” – are instead included as instrumental versions. Ski’s beats still knock, but Def is sorely missed. The same can be said for the otherwise blazing posse cut “Prowler 2″ (feat. Jean Grae, Joell Ortiz, and Jay Electronica), the original version which also included now-deleted verses from Def.
Unfortunately, some of the remaining tracks are not strong enough to hold the rest of the album together. Each “Super Bad” (feat. Rugz D. Bewler), “S.T.A.L.L.E.Y.” (feat. Stalley) and “Do It Big” (feat. The Cool Kids) suffer from bland production and blasé hooks that do little to sell new listeners on these still breaking artists. While the blog scene is full of better songs from each of these artists, unfortunately their strongest moments were not captured here.
Some of the more established emcees do come though though; Jim Jones and Curren$y sound especially grimey on “Go”, while Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y share high experiences on “Scaling The Building”. And who can be mad at Camp Lo reuniting with Ski for “Back Uptown”?
24 Hour Karate School has some great moments, but ultimately is a vicitim of industry politics. The clearance issues that kept Mos Def off this record sucked the momentum out of the rest of the album, leaving the end product sounding too short and unfinished. Still, let’s hope the relationship between Def and Ski has been maintained, because judging from the material that leaked out, the prospect of a fully collaborative duet LP from the two of them could result in a classic.
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