The revolution will not be televised. Hell, it may never even come. Mainstream hip-hop is struggling to find its way through an overly product-placed minefield, and the underground has amazingly not yet given up. But that’s not to say it’s not falling into the same repetitive fate the mainstream has succumbed to. Replace the typical Bacardi shout-outs with disses on ignorance and you pretty much have the recipe for the current underground structure. Maybe there isn’t that much room for innovation in a genre that’s been doing the same thing for the last thirty years, but on The Year of the Beast, C-Rayz Walz makes a solid attempt at pushing forward less-corporate hip-hop.
Only a handful of hip-hop labels have taken it upon themselves to drive hip-hop to a new ground, and Definitive Jux is at the pinnacle. Rayz stepped to his second full-length with a list of social issues to tackle, including America’s desire to create an archetypical heaven no matter the cost (“Paradise”) and racial crossover issues (“Black Out”). But after the album’s fifty-five minutes have lapsed, it felt like more of a lecture and less like a reason to move.
Still, Rayz’s lyrical style is downright amazing. Called king of freestyles and dominator of the battles, it’s his lyrical flows that carry the album, not the beats. In order to progress with his creativity, Rayz apparently burned his old lyric books before writing The Year of the Beast. Whether it worked or not is beside the point, but with flows such as “Your mike don’t sound nice/ You shouldn’t even check 1, 2/ I disrespect who come through/ My intellect is kung fu,” Rayz shows exactly why he deserves a seat at Definitive Jux.
The Year of the Beast proves itself as a solid underground hip-hop album, but like most albums, this one has a handful of songs you want to listen to more than others. The album is hindered, though, because it takes on too many subjects and puts too much emphasis on the lyrics. What makes a perfect hip-hop album is an even fusion between intelligent lyrics and beats that keep you glued to the dance floor. When the hip-hop re-revolution finally comes, who knows what it will bring. But I hope it will provide creativity that makes my ass move just as much as my head.