Album Review – East Coast Avengers

East Coast Avengers Present: DC The Midi Alien

“Avengers Airwaves”

(Brick Records)

Back in the late-80s / early-90s politically-charged rap was the norm, with acts such as Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Paris and BDP all doing their part to spark the braincells of listeners with hard-hitting social commentary and scathing lyrical attacks on the US government’s policies of the time. With rap becoming big business throughout the 90s and into the new millenium, the more rebellious and revolutionary aspects of the music were sidelined by both artists and labels chasing champagne dreams and mainstream success, leaving a void that the likes of dead prez and Talib Kweli attempted to fill with mixed results.

Formed in 2008 and gaining immediate notoriety with their “Kill Bill O’Reilly” single, the East Coast Avengers (emcees Esoteric and trademarc, producer DC The Midi Alien) attempted a rallying cry with their debut album “Political Planet”, which was met with both critical acclaim and underground props for the trio’s attempts to inject their music with lyrical substance and kickstart intellectual debate amongst Hip-Hop heads.

Now, three years later, the Avengers return with this latest release, which features a long list of subterranean rhyme animals covering a variety of socially relevant topics over DC’s unapologetically raw production. Kicking off with the dramatic strings and tight cuts of “National Threat”, Esoteric and trademarc power through verses containing references to the Obama administation, New World Order conspiracies and the part they feel is played by global media in dumbing down the masses, their sharp darts littered with crafty wordplay and references to the political awareness of rap’s golden-age (“I’m more S1W, You’re more SWV”).

The thumping “Man Made Ways” finds La Coka Nostra affiliate Slaine, Non-Phixion’s Sabac Red and Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vinnie Paz attacking a society that encourages apathy instead of critical thinking, with each emcee painting vivid verbal depictions of a post-apocalyptic world in which economics and social structure no longer have any meaning. Bringing the listener back to the present, “Another Hundred Days In” is a tense, atmospheric track which features trademarc questioning Barack Obama’s effectiveness in bringing about the political change that was promised in pre-election speeches, juxtaposing the promises made before the votes were counted against the actions the President has taken since entering the White House.

“Disposable Heroes” criticizes the lack of support on offer to help ease soldiers returning from the Middle East back into civilian life, with featured lyricists Nabo Rawk and Apes**t rhyming from the perspective of army vets struggling to come to terms with the atrocities they’ve witnessed over moody sample-heavy production (“A soldier on the frontline, I served my four years, Came back with one arm, more fears and nightmares”). Meanwhile, the impressive posse cut “Ride For A Cause” finds Reef The Lost Cauze, Doap Nixon, Blacastan and Reks getting to grips with alleged secret societies, Illuminati rhetoric and inner-city living conditions over a hypnotic blend of ominous keys, sweeping strings and slick scratches.

Of the seventeen full-length tracks on offer here, the only real mis-steps are “Riot Gear” and “Artists In A Time Of War”, both of which suffer from bland, sub-par production that takes the sting out of the thought-provoking lyrics delivered from Termanology, Singapore Kane and Big Shug.

You may agree with the political stance of the artists featured on “Avengers Airwaves” or you might have a very different opinion on a lot of the topics raised throughout the project, but regardless, the real aim of this album is to offer food for thought and stimulate debate, and it succeeds on both counts.

The East Coast Avengers and their army of Hip-Hop affiliates definitely don’t have all the answers to the ills of the world, but they’re not afraid of asking the questions which might help us all make a little more sense out of the confusing, corrupt, recession-hit world we live in today.

Ryan Proctor

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