Virginia is for lovers. And now it’s for music lovers, too, with the release of You Need This Music from Norfolk’s Nottz. To those with the attention to detail to notice his liner note fame, Nottz is not an unfamiliar name. As a producer he has worked with Busta Rhymes, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, Rakim, and more, which is no small feat. On his latest offering, however, he not only steps behind the boards, but holds down duties behind the mic as well.
Still, we know Nottz as a producer before we know him as a rapper, and the production is as much worthy of discussion as his emceeing. What really shines on You Need This Music is the versatility Nottz brings to the table. One minute he’s channeling his inner DJ Premier on the tougher “Fair Warning,” then he smoothes it out on the title track featuring Dwele. He possesses the rare ability to switch his style up from track to track and make it seem effortless, lending the listener a musical experience that never gets boring. The fact that Nottz has production skills is not a secret, but how does he fare as an emcee? Can he stand up to his guests? With Joell Ortiz, Royce Da 5’9″, Black Milk, and more making appearances, it’s certainly a challenge.
The results are mixed. Nottz definitely has a decent flow and some bars, yet he’s not the greatest to ever touch a mic, as expected. And yes, some of his features outshine him. But it’s not like he markets himself as an emcee, either. For a producer, he’s doing amazingly well at both. On “A Dream Come True” Nottz pays homage to the ones we’ve lost in an over 6-minute track that serves as a list of people that have died. It’s almost depressing to realize how many people have been lost, and six minutes of it is a bit excessive – kind of like having an outro track of thank you’s and shout outs at the end of a mixtape. It’s times like these on You Need This Music when the listener will see his production stand out more than his lyrics. How he flipped the same drums Dilla used for Q-Tip’s “Let’s Ride” on “Blast That” featuring Black Milk is definitely way more entertaining than hearing another music industry “R.I.P.” list.
Standouts include “My Neighbor” featuring Asher Roth and Colin Munroe, where each lyricist reminisces about their hometowns, with a late-night or college radio friendliness that will have fans singing the catchy hook for a while after hearing the song. “The Cycle” featuring Joell Ortiz features a bass-heavy, key-dominated solid instrumental with two equally strong lyrical efforts. As Nottz rhymes about his boy who just got out of the pen, Joell follows up with a verse detailing how a drug dealer got caught up by talking reckless on the phone. It’s a track full of street shit with a feeling of sensibility to it all, and the two emcees handle it almost like a casual conversation between friends.
If none of the above compels a listener to pick up You Need This Music, a track with Snoop Dogg and Royce Da 5’9″ alone should be enough to pique some interest in the latest album from Nottz. With a solid lyrical debut and an even more impressive production performance, there’s no reason that Nottz’ name shouldn’t move from the background to the forefront of people’s playlists.
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