31 December, 2013@11:55 am
Much like his namesake’s explorations introduced the west to Asia, Marco Polo has introduced a lot of talented emcees to new listeners, while at the same time reintroduced legends of yesteryear to a new generation. When 2007 ended, Marco’s Port Authority stood as one of the finest albums of the year. 2009 was no different with Canada’s finest aural export teaming with Torae for Double Barrel. 2013 brought us a three peat for Marco with another top entry at year’s end: PA2: The Director’s Cut, a proper sequel to 2007’s Port Authority.
On PA2, Marco assumes the role of a fine movie director bringing an album laid out like a cinematic soundtrack. He’s joined by a who’s who of legends: Masta Ace, King Tee, MC Eiht ; the underground’s finest: Celph Titled, Gangrene, Supastition ; and even a few where-the-hell-have-you-beens: Last Emperor and Rah Digga. At eighteen tracks deep, there’s something for everyone here. Marco builds beats that accentuate each artist’s strengths, making each guest shine like a good director getting the best out of an actor. Speaking of actors, Michael Rappaport narrates the album as a fan introducing each track’s artists, which is an acquired taste depending on how one feels about that type of thing.
A reunited Organized Konfusion (remember when they did that about a decade ago?) kicks the album off proper, and although they don’t seem to utilize the groundbreaking rhyme styles and schemes they used in the early to mid-90s, it’s still a lovely thing to hear them together. Big Twins, Nature, and F.T. bring what one would expect on “Can’t Get Enough”, and with a beat that fits their grimy styles proper, the track shines. It’s followed by great performances on “Astonishing” by Large Professor, Inspectah Deck, O.C. & Tragedy on a high-energy track with lovely chorus cuts by DJ Revolution. Revolution pops up throughout the album, as he does on most of Marco’s projects, which for some may be the cherry on top of the sundae. Additionally, DJ Premier, DJ Linx, DJ Romes, and Shylow lay cuts on tracks, which show Marco doesn’t stray far from the tried-and-true formula of the emcee and deejay.
With so many highlights, it doesn’t mean The Directors Cut is Illmatic and flawless. Some may find so many tracks to be overwhelming, although who wouldn’t want more music for their money? “Wrong Girl” featuring Reach and Reggie B is awkward with its early-90’s chorus, and stands out on an album with no singing. Once you get past the chorus, it’s still a solid track, but takes a different, more-personal route on an album with Lil Fame, Blaq Poet, etc. As previously mentioned, Michael Rappaport may wear thin on repeat listens, but no one can question his love for the art when he was popping up on episodes of Rap City back in the mid-90s.
With a lot of glut on the market, so many rappers from the past disappointing, and many of the best fading away, Marco Polo should be viewed as a cornerstone of the last decade for classic hip-hop. He’s brought together a plethora of the best from the past thirty years, produced for present underground favorites and sleepers, and been able to make all of them sound at their best. A lesson to all those from previous generations, don’t come back with a desperate grab at the mainstream, call Marco to stay relevant.
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