Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mighty Joseph - Empire State - Urchin Studios (2008)

While the underground collectively waits for the rumoured follow-up to Cannibal Ox’s seminal debut album Cold Vein (Def Jux, 2001) to drop sometime later this year (hopefully!), one half of the progressive hip hop duo, Vast Aire (the other half being Vordul Mega) has teamed with long-time friend and collaborator Karneige to push out some solid post-millennium product that bridges the gap between gritty street tales and a paranoid view of the future in NYC after 9/11. With numerous references to gorillas and King Kong as well as their name giving a nod to a certain movie starring an ape (Mighty Joe Young anyone?); Mighty Joseph are clearly looking to climb to the top of the rap heap with Empire State (Urchin Studios, 2008) and beat their chests lyrically over some dope production.

The album features a list of producers and emcees such as Murs, Vordul Mega,Poison Pen, Madlib and J Zone who all inject some extra flavour into this fresh release. Vast and Karneige come out strong over a menacing King-Kong-ish stomp on album opener “The Uprising”. Both emcees bully the mic with Vast Aire staking his claim for topping NYC’s Best-Dressed Underground Rapper list, “I don’t care what you talk / I am the supreme King New York / Raccoon hat, sheepskin coat, Playboy sweater / Wow, isn’t that dope?”

While the release does feature some of the apocalyptic production that made both Cold Vein and Vast’s solo project Look Mom No Hands (Chocolate Industries, 2004) albums to cop if you were looking for a slightly different flavour; the beats on Empire State are a little more varied. One example, is the bouncy, futuristic beat chock full of soundbites from old-school videogames that Madlib provides on “Legend”. Vast takes the reigns solo as he delivers a vivid street report over the blunted soundscape.

The only tracks that don’t quite wind into the tapestry of Empire State are the Murs-assisted “The Dark Ages” where the usually tight emcee sounds disinterested on his possibly phoned-in verse and “Nightlife” which has a clumsy beat drowned out with unnecessary vocal effects, which end up suffocating Karniege and Vast Aire not allowing the two emcees to breath properly on this track.

Overall, the debut release dropped by Mighty Joseph proves to be a refreshing listen amongst all of the other forgettable noise masquerading as hip-hop that is currently saturating the market. If there was a Hip-Hop Zoo and there was a gorilla exhibit, you’d surely find Mighty Joseph occupying that space with a confident strut and a ferocious growl. Be careful not to feed the animals however. Not because it’s dangerous, but because they’re already full…from eating other lame emcees.

Rating: 7/10

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