Hip-Hop With Heart and Humor
Terry Baker, Syracuse New Times 01-08-97
Thousands of rap albums glut the market each
year, few of them memorable. As the resilient genre races toward its
20th anniversary as a commercial commodity, its fans still wonder what
will propel it beyond misogyny, gangsta-ism and East Coast/West Coast
Answers to those concerns slowly surface in
smaller metropolitan areas such as Syracuse. Many small-market efforts
provide avenues for fresh approaches and make room for provocative new
voices in rap.
This is all perfect timing for the new
release by Mad Pack, the Sammy-winning Syracuse collective that includes
three acts: Channel 3, the Sub-basements and solo artist R-Reality. The
long-delayed Last Dimension chronicles Mad Pack's
progression from a conglomerate of raw hip-hop talent into polished rap
trailblazers here in the Salt City.
For fans who enjoy rap laced with lyrical
mind bombs and humorous rhymes, Last Dimension hits its mark in a
hurry. Aesthetically, however, it's infused with a back-to-basics style
that emphasizes double entendre and palpitating rhythms, yet refuses to
rely on hyper-materialism and gimmicks. Newcomers beware, however:
Last Dimension remains close to the street and doesn't swagger
toward a pop appeal like recent projects from Fugees or Coolio. This
album might be easy to digest, but it's certainly not candy-coated.
All good artistic endeavors are
autobiographical on some level, and Last Dimension is no
exception. Mad Pack is learning the ins and outs of the music game by
trial and error. They verbalize these triumphs and tribulations on this
12-song cassette and, thankfully, their soul-searching is done without
being too vindictive. These tales will make listeners smile and even
laugh when hearing them for the first time. The bass-heavy "Mr. A&R,"
for instance, takes a shot at record companies' artist and repertoire
departments, many of whom don't know much about the genre, yet are
responsible for discovering and signing acts. Another sizzling track
along similar lines is the hard-core cut "I.O.U.," a chorus-line jam
featuring each member's twisted rendition of the big payback.
Hip-hop heads who have caught Mad Pack's
high-energy performances at local venues or heard them flex their
freestyle rhyme skills over the airwaves of the old WOLF-AM 1490 will
certainly remember the rambunctious "Kill a Copy Kat" and more mellow
offerings such as "Continuous Vibe" and "Six Souls Singin.'" New Edition
fans will recognize Mad Pack's hypnotic "Red Lights and Incense," which
features the beat from NE's single "Hit Me Off."
Many observers believe rap will survive if
and when it successfully builds bridges to other genres. Mad Pack must
agree, because they enlisted the commandeering voice of the late reggae
artist Bobby-T (who died before the cassette was released) on the cut
"Rude Boy," which can best be described as hip-hop meets the dance hall.
"Rude Boy" will please fans of Caribbean music and may well convert them
into rap fans along the way.
Between some of the cuts, Mad Pack has
crafted some of the most effective voice-over skits this side of De La
Soul. Two of the more remarkable routines include an hilarious sample
from the cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which speaks out
against rapper's materialism, as well as the skillfully crafted "Battle
Interlude" from a radio show in Rochester.
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Records/ RBR Media Releases and
Deadwate - Dinnertime
CD $9.99 (2003, 62 min.)
Wreck Files - Undaground Hip-Hop
(feat. Seth Marcel)
CD $9.99 (2000, 54 min.)
Getcha Hustle On / Masters Of The Microphone
Vinyl $5.99 (2003, 22 min.)
Sounds for MPC / WAV
Sampling (Akai, Roland, Ensoniq)
(1993, 47 min.) Ghetto Noise Vol. 1
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