Radio Do Canibal, despite being a DJ record populated by a who's-who of today's best rappers, is a surprisingly cohesive statement. As a celebration both of hip-hop and of Brazilian music, the record knocks it out of the park on nearly every song, all of which rest on an impressive catalog of beats put together by BK-One.
It was BK-One's goal to pay homage to Brazilian music on the album, and he does so by not leaning too heavily on it. In the same way that music absorbed other cultures (from funk to jazz to samba to raggae to you-name-it), BK-One takes elements from Brazilian music and crafts an album that feels wholly new. The party thump of "Gitit" is filled out by bleating horns. "True and Living" is thick with a fuzzy bass line. "Philly Boy" has brooding guitar lines, while "Face It" is full of shiny, funked-out riffs. In short, BK-One never repeats himself, but the entire record has a psychedelic haze that sands down hard edges on these beats and solders them together into an impressive and sweeping whole.
And on those beats, we get to see rappers from all corners of the hip-hop world come together. Raekwon splits "True and Living" with I Self Divine, and both guys hold up their end of the grimy track. Phonte, Brother Ali, and The Grouch completely kill "Here I Am," each with a flow completely different but just as deadly as the last. And even when rappers tackle these tracks alone, they shine. Black Thought, P.O.S., Blueprint, Slug -- each rapper is on top of his game, sounding energized, ready to challenge and one-up each other. More than most DJ records, this one feels collaborative, as if all these guys are coming together to say this is what hip-hop is to them. And fused together, their voices make a hell of a case for the music.
What's no surprise is that Brother Ali, who works with BK-One on all his albums, comes out as the MVP here. He turns in three distinct and brilliant verses on this record, sounding plenty at home over any beat. His interplay with Slug on "Gitit" is infectious, and when he raps, "Slug and me, the new EPMD," you know he's kidding, but part of you might want to agree with him. And when he splits the bitter trudge of "American Nightmare" with Scarface (at his growling best), it's like he's taken on all the styles that weave through Radio Do Canibal, slowing down his flow and leaning on words to squeeze out the anger.
It's a brief moment of frustration on an album that prefers to celebrate, but it's an important one. Radio Do Canibal works because it takes on Brazilian music and hip-hop, and it celebrates both cultures while it still worries over violence and race, and the future of the music they love. This is a love letter to music, crafted brilliantly and with care by BK-One. So for now, set aside those flabby mixtapes. This has all the variety you could want from those, with none of the filler.
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