Year of the Beast
May 17Definitive Jux
One of the most endearing aspects about battle MCs is their ability to influence, charm and win over the crowd. The more railings and tongue-in-cheek snaps they can cram into an allotted timeframe, the better. The main objective is to show and prove. So, when listening to C Rayz Walz, it’s important to keep all this in mind, and to remember that mastering the art of freestyle means being completely in tune to yourself: the subsequent rap is the portfolio of the person spittin’ it out.
But Year of the Beast is a record, not a stage, so it needs to have a little bit of the finer science. In that sense, this album falls short of the mark, as C Rayz stream of consciousness doesn’t really ever come full circle. But there is a lot to be said for C Rayz’ abstractions, and I was pleasantly entertained by his complex construction of raps. On the song ‘Walk Through’ he rhymes “I walk through the ghetto holding my dic… tionary/Others are mad and pissed/I exist off of spits/And they still trapped in ignorance.” Another charmer, from ‘Street Reppin’ — “Ready to pump CD’s… fire it up in the clubs/people keep filling up their cups like their drinking for Jesus.” Awesome. But the strongest track is ‘First Words Worse’, featuring El-P, who exercises, even for him, biting verbal bravery.
Even while C Rayz is from the streets of NYC and has a checkered, thug-life past of thug (even though, like most of the Def Jux crew, he believes that life equals apocalypse), he’s able to take all the mental garbage of life and turn our collective frustrations into lyrical trickery and dope beats — which to me is when hip-hop is at its best. So I can smile and dance and possibly be inspired by dread and amused by fear… all at the same time. Thanks C Rayz, it can be that simple.