Earthtones
label: basement
production: crown city rockers
guest: gift of gab, scarub, zion i, destani wolf.
year of release: 2004
 
tracklisting
1. Intro
2. Another Day
3. Balance feat. Scarub
4. Sidestep feat. Destani Wolf
5. B-Boy Interlude
6. B-Boy
7. Fortitude feat. Gift of Gab
8. Maxlude 1
9. Fate
10. Culture
11. D Minor Nine
12. Simple
13. Heat
14. Earthtones
15. Without Love feat. Zion
16. Something Pt. 3
17. 10.53
18. No Sense
19. Proteus (Bonus Track)
The Crown City Rockers are Raashan Ahmad as the M.C. and sometime producer, Kat Ouano on keys, Ethan Parsonage, a.k.a. Headnodic, as producer and bassist, Woodstock as an additional producer, and Max MacVeety on drums. And they used to be Mission:. And while there certainly is a public reason why they are no more, it doesn't really matter (the reason is that another group was already called Mission:). What however matters is that this album has been hailed and creating a certain amount of buzz amongst the initiated. Without too much surprise though, 'cause that Mission album "One" was already quite good.
Confusing however is the title "Earthtones". Recently some people are using this word as a new subgenre name; for that soulful, retro 90s type of rap, popularized by Little Brother. Yes, for a big part, this album gives us just that. But the genre name is stupid. Albeit fitting. Kinda like Emo-hop. What is a also really bad name. Even though there could be worse 'earthtones' also, like neo-rap.
Now, one of the best moments comes on "Balance", a song - like all songs - featuring live instrumentation. But don't fret that: these people make it work. While most other groups fail at this task, Crown City accomplishes the pure rap vibe. And while you get the impression of live instrumentation, it's still within the limits of sounding properly processed. This song "Balance" is further very good due to Scarub droppin' by. Now the Rockers' in house rapper Raashan not a bad rapper. But not everybody can be as good as Scarub. Or Gift Of Gab, who appears on "Fortitude". This song is equally pleasing and more, with a cool and somewhat different and fast beat. Gab pulls out his fast flow and just styles the shish out the song. Ra' enjoys himselve too, dropping flowing for flowing's sake rhymes.
Also good is "B-Boy", what can be considered the unofficial twin to Promoe's "These Walls Don't Lie". Both have a similar and very catchy sample, while Promoe's song speaks about graff artists, this is - as the title suggests - an ode to everybody that's been a fan long before it was fashionable to be.
The instruments take over again on "Fate" and "Culture", which then sound too live. So it only makes sense that on "D Minor Nine", the rapper stays quiet and lets the musicians to their thang. This is quite a contrast as its straight jazz and it totally breaks the vibe of the record. Despite the vibe already spreading out due to the dilution of "Fate" and "Culture". Nevertheless, the instrumental song shows the musicians' grown up skills, what they certainly cannot show on the 'proper' rap songs.
One of those follows with "Simple", an accusing - in a battle sense - song, while "Heat" turns the energy up again, with a very funky backdrop that once more sounds too live though. The title track "Earthtones" does a better job at pleasing with the instrumentation. It combines the jazz band music with a rap that's more poetry and talked. Making the song to be more jazz than rap, what's a good thing, securing the quality of this good while very short song.
The 'proper' rap once again returns on the interesting "Without Love Pt. 3", that catches the Saturday Night Boogie vibe. The rapper Ra' sticks to his positive rhetoric ("I'm good, but I'm game for improving"). Here in a carefree and on "No Sense" on a more thoughtful tip.
With all said and done, and with the instrumental bonus track "Proteus" carrying us into the sunset, the Crown City Rockers often do that: rock us. But at times they would be beer suited with the name Crown City Quintet. Because there's a lot of jazz on here and a lot of badly disguised live instrumentation. What on many songs works well, but also often enough, not as well as on those other songs.
review: tadah
 
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