The history of Columbus, Ohio’s MHz is perhaps one of the most intriguing stories in underground hip-hop lore. They first stepped on the scene in 1998, via a handful of vinyl only singles on Bobbito’s legendary Fondle ‘Em Records imprint. While these 12-inches hardly made them a household name, they did catch the ears of a few important figures of the time – Definitive Jux’s El-P and Eastern Conference’s DJ Mighty Mi. Friendly competition between the two pioneering indie hip-hop imprints would see the signing of solo deals for both RJD2 and Camu Tao on Jux, while Copywrite would sign with E.C. Both RJD2 and Copywrite would deliver debut solo LP’s in 2002 – both critically acclaimed – with other MHz members Jakki, and Tage Proto waiting in the wings. Camu teamed with both Cage and Metro for a pair of collaborative projects, Nighthawks and S.A. Smash, respectively; and the fusion of MHz, with many of the other Def Jux and E.C. artists, would form an ultimate supergroup called The Weathermen, who released one mixtape before disappearing forever.
During a time where crew albums were all the rage (here’s looking at you, Terror Squad) and with all of these projects happening concurrently, it seemed like the reuniting of the MHz crew was inevitable. The Ohio collective had already produced each RJD2, Copywrite, and Camu Tao, so getting everyone back together for a crew-defining LP seemed like a no-brainer. Except it never happened. Rumors of in-fighting, falling-outs, and on-again-off-again friendships between various members of the crew always seemed to keep the reunion from happening. And then something happened in 2008 that sealed MHz’s fate for good: the early death of Camu Tao.
It’s 2012, and both Def Jux and Eastern Conference Records are defunct. RJD2 has moved beyond standard hip-hop production, Copywrite has struggled with broken relationships and backlash from fair-weather fans, while Camu rests in peace after succumbing to cancer. The idea of an MHz album at this point almost seems like a bad idea… but somehow they have pulled it off.
Copywrite leads the pack on MHz Legacy, while Tage has finally moved beyond “Proto” type status, and moved into a “Future” version of himself, finally ready to stand front-and-center with his more established peers. The MHz Legacy album largely revolves around these two emcees – quite easily the best of the camp – with minor contributions from Jakki and a posthumous Camu. The album begins with “Accidentally On Purpose”, which sums up the project in one line: “This is the album that wasn’t even supposed to happen / even after mastering, we couldn’t believe the rappin’ / a story about moving out the house / from a crew with a name nobody knew how to pronounce”. (It’s “megahertz”, in case you were wondering).
The chemistry between the crew on MHz Legacy doesn’t sound forced, even with Cam’s verses delivered from beyond the grave, such as on “Spaceship”, which finds Copy and Camu sharing rhymes, alongside guest Danny Brown, who seems like he would have been a natural collaborator with Cam. There are plenty of great posse cuts in the classic E.C. / Def Jux fashion, such as a pair of RJD2 produced heaters, “Hindsight” and “Four Player Mode”, or later on “Columbus Diss Patch”, each with a sound that suggests the Fat Beats 12″ era never died out. On the solo tip, Tage gets his time to shine on the RJD2 produced “Outta Room”, while Copywrite gets his on “Obituaries”. There are a number of notable guest collabos as well, such as “Yellow & Blue”, which features guest verses from Blu over a ridiculous track by Surock, or the drug-addled “Addicitionary”, where each Copywrite, Ill Bill, and Slaine recount their personal narcotic experiences. The album takes a more serious turn on tracks like “Mass Temple” and “Y’all Don’t Know”, both of which suggest that these cats are more than just witty punchlines, and also proves they aren’t always dependent on RJD2 for the album’s more meaty, musical moments.
While some of the fat could have been trimmed from the album’s 17 tracks, MHZ Legacy is a very solid, surprising effort, one that we thought would never happen. Posthumous albums never seem to work, and crew albums even less so. But in a rare occurrence, Copywrite, RJD2, and Tage have pooled their efforts into pulling this thing together, and it is nothing short of spectacular. Despite the indie hip-hop movement having it’s best days behind it, and the idea of this album being way past expiration, the end result shows that the Columbus crew has prevailed, and the MHz Legacy will live on.
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