Sure, "Champion" was one of the sweeter tracks on 2003’s prominent Shadows on the Sun, but the remix that heads up this EP is worlds better. Brother Ali and Ant of Atmosphere keep consistent within the Rhymesayers camp, a roster that boasts the likes of other shimmering emcee and deejay match-ups such as Soul Position and Eyedea & Abilities. The Champion EP, the follow-up to an LP that pretty much snuck up and smacked us in the face, is another example of what we can expect from Ali: authoritative verse on things inside and largely outside the hip-hop spectrum and backed by trailblazing beats.
"Champion" didn’t need a remix. It was all there. The looped funk, Ant’s cutting snippets of reggae vocals in the middle section, all up to the memorable, easy-to-recite chorus. Ant is clearly not bound by any particular frame of reference for his beats; he built on the reggae pieces in the original track and put together a huge, bass-heavy dub rhythm for the remix, complete with the brass soaked in reverb and organ. Sick.
Ali is larger than life over this beat, having trumped up the chorus to a shout, as if announcing from ringside. His brag verse is punctuated by the sports-hero theme: he’s "chokin’ players like I’m Bob Knight/ choke the coaches like I’m Spreewell/ They bowin’ to the ‘sayers ’til their knees swell," bordering on street thuggery while bending slang to fit his ever-articulate needs. Ali reflects on his dominant skills throughout, stopping off for a shout-out to his label, his supporters and his son. This dominance comes off in the tracks succeed "Champion," too; Ali spits vehemently all the way to underground stardom.
Ant offers a blast of fuzzy blues guitar and scorching harmonica for "Bad Ma Fucka," and Ali retorts with more catchy shouts at chorus time. The beats keep getting better over the first three tracks, perhaps peaking in "Sleepwalker," when the inward-searching master hits his lyrical pinnacle. He opens with a rather unsettling journal entry in "I do not have any memory of peaceful sleep," and it spirals downward it seems; he is fearless in exposing broken family relationships as a child that are now most definitely countered by his strong fatherhood and husband principles. Brother Ali’s revelations in "Sleepwalker" work perfectly alongside Ant’s tumbling horror movie backdrop, complete with an inaudible vocal loop that trails off in the rooftops of this inner reckoning.
The Champion EP works like an extension of the LP and though brief in content, the first few cuts hit harder than Shadows, equaling 2003’s powerful beats in "Bitch Slap" and matching the edgy flow in "Back Stage Pacin’." We’re fortunate that Ant is splitting his time with Slug and Ali, because the match on this bill triumphs in the successful Rhymesayers partnership fashion.