Like with Dada artists of then-warmongering Germany, and like so much contemporary political art from the now-warmongering US of A, C-Rayz Walz tends to take refuge in a jokester’s mentality because, it seems, sometimes you just have to laugh when things get so bad. Walz raps almost exclusively about life in urban ghettoes but injects many of his gloomy songs with strong overtones of hope and humor, maintaining a friction that prevents his records from charges of one-dimensionality (“moody,” “angry”). But, paradoxically, that acts as a trap. The stance all but refutes the potential for the focused, epic sound perfected by his label mates Cannibal Ox.
Not that C-Rayz necessarily needs to change his act. We Live shows no evidence of any great progression or downfall from a rapper who, at the very least, is consistently decent. The EP is more of the same hyper-inflection of a phrase’s final word, more grimly goofy rhymes like, “On Fordham Road/ Three-Card Molly/ Fucking up the icy man/ In front of everybody!” and more sentimentality, which is probably C-Rayz’s greatest weakness. There’s no doubt, for instance, that his ashcan-school depiction of single motherhood on “Single Mothers” is sincere and honest, but the “We are the World”-style chorus slaps on the paint a bit thick.
We Live has some highlights, especially the Chinese-pop sample of “Showgun” and the head-nodding, old-school bass propulsion of “Crayzeerock.” But the EP’s utter consistency with previous C-Rayz outings begs the question of whether his highly developed signature style may be inherently limiting.