Hip-hop, a genre that is just old enough to buy the Armadale vodka the Jigga Man likes to sip from time to time, has gone through several peaks and valleys since its inception. Asheru and Blue Black, two University of Virginia graduates and founding members of the Seven Heads collective, understand this and use it as a selling point on 48 Months, an album that is as much a history lesson about their work as it as about the genre. With nods to contemporary cats Pete Rock and Peanut Butter Wolf, Asheru and his crew pumps out an album that is both conscious and harkens back to the heroes.
The nostalgia that Ash and his buddies peddle is proud of its heritage. It’s conscious hip-hop that focuses on the ills of the neighborhood rather than the rims of his car. While groups like Jurassic 5 and Black Star have made a name on knowledge of history, and while Ash can be a little bit too referential at times on 48 Months, his message is not lost, and neither are his skills.
The bulk of the album is compiled from early twelve-inches, and the vibe from the early days successfully carries over. Album opener “Mid Atlantic” illustrates Ash’s tight flow and deft lyrical use, while “Better” boasts lyrics you post on your wall and beats you can dance to. J-Live, a man that has been on the tips of everyone’s tongues lately, makes two appearances on 48 Months — “How You Livin’ ?” and the strong “Trackrunners” — both with admirable results.
Where 48 Months trips up is when it comes to the added material. Sure, it’s easy to throw on some extra songs for all of the heads that have the old twelve-inches, but sometimes songs are left in the vaults for a reason. Bonus songs are nice, but by the end of the disc, I was itching for the stop button.
By most indications, Asheru will move from making underground hits to his “peak” on his forthcoming full-length. Nothing on 48 Months was ever that groundbreaking, but to see why that it’s appealing, look no further than the D.C. hardcore scene. Asheru rhymes with conviction about his experience and environment, something his D.C. brothers and sisters have been doing the more than two decades. While he isn’t breaking down any walls, his message is loud and clear.