-- Maurice Downes
the cup half-full or half-empty? That's a necessary cliché when
you consider the plight/blessing of the Arsonists. Once a group containing
the talents of myriad emcees, they were whittled down to a more tidy,
and probably more manageable five for their first major release: "As
the World Burns." They've now had more time to hone their skills,
smooth out the rough edges, find their voice, and grow closer as a collective
but yet they sport even fewer emcees (three, to be exact) on their latest
Matador release: "Date of Birth." As you lose members you may
tighten the ship, but do you lose the heart? Could you imagine Jurassic
5 without its
Remaining emcees Jise, Swel 79, and producer/MC Q-Unique make a convincing
argument for the Arsonists' turbulent history. The result of constant
band upheaval appears to be a group that is in harmony with each other's
ideas. No track on this album sounds out of place or forced, and when
they venture into darker material (like "His Hate, Her Love")
it doesn't feel obligatory, like an album of "Fuck the Bitch, Get
the Cash" songs with that one "Love My Mama" track. No
shows of false emotion on this one, which is admirable.
The Arsonists all have a similar, wordy flow that shows a lot of technique,
but not a terrible amount of contrast. This could be seen as artistic
agreement, but could also be construed as a slight hindrance since groups
like Wu-Tang are known to thrive on contrasting styles.
As a whole, the album bobs from tracks that are merely good, but forgettable,
to real gems without any discernable pattern. However, when they're on,
they're on. It's safe to say that "Millionaire", the final track
on the album is easily one of the best hip-hop tracks of the year, skit
and all. It parodies what you think it parodies, and is reminiscent of
more clever times in hip-hop. Another winner, "Language Arts"
is a blistering ode to the tried and true "emceeing as martial art"
aesthetic. Praise be to Q-Unique for keeping the production tight and
interesting, if at times a little too constant.
"Date of Birth" is a solid release, hands down. The Brooklyn-based
group has kept it together nicely, and isn't at all the worse for wear
despite the smaller numbers.
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| November 2001 | Issue 20
Please send us submissions