Artist: A to the L
Album: The Hell’s Kitchen EP
Rating: 6.5 / 10
(Editorial Note: I passed this EP to my man Adrunk for review. I put this together during 3 months in 2001, simply to see if I could DO it. The sound quality ain’t great at all, and some of the tracks are pretty booty to me now, but I appreciate Adrunk’s honest views on this. I’ll provide more info through the review as its required.)
Look around you. What do you see? A dope website? Yeah you do, and it was all put together by alt.rap veteran and all round nice guy A to the L. As was this “Hell’s Kitchen EP”.
After you shrug off the stoooopid intro, the familiar sound of LL Cool J’s ‘4321’ beat drags its heavy ass in and immediately gives you a good feeling about the first track. And the vocal side of the track doesn’t disappoint by any means, as AL lays an old school freestyle over the beat. It’s straight off the dome, and the fresh as fuck lyrics get you thinking it’s the golden days of the mid-80s again. The flow is slightly monotonous, but only on the level of a Guru or a GZA, so it’s not too bad.
The title track is refreshingly dope as fuck. The chosen beat complements the track perfectly and the lyrics are on point as usual from AL. It’s more battle/braggadocio ish here, but an enjoyable experience anyway. Two versions appear on here, the solo version and a version with fellow alt.rap rhymer Deja along for the ride. I don’t really see the point in this, it’s not like the two versions of Kweli’s Down For The Count, there are no new verses on the solo track. And it’s not worth the collaboration either, cause Deja’s dulcet tones sound frighteningly like a transvestite with a sex change.
AL flexes his battle muscles constantly on here, half of the tracks are on the braggadocio tip leading to some of his lyrics getting increasingly repetitive throughout the length of the EP. The ‘Three The Hard Way’ freestyle provokes a mixed response. The first segment, over the beat for Nikka Costa’s ‘Like A Feather’ (why????? why?????) is wack, cause in a desperate attempt to flow on beat AL fucks up the smoothness of it. It’s not his fault, he manages to flow on beat, it’s just that the beat does NOT suit rapping. The second segment, which uses Biggie’s ‘Dead Wrong’ beat, is better, with lyrics like “My rhymes so hot they cause metal fatigue, that’s why I’m getting sued by the microphone protection league” who can go wrong? The third segment blows the spot majorly, the flow is super-smooth, and the lyrics are straight raw off the dome dopeness. AL’s stuck two battle cuts on here (one each against COTN/Mabus and Dave Paget) and they are very nice indeed. Mad punchlines, smooth flow, just two generally quality tracks.
The EP contains two posse cuts – first off, there’s ‘The Finale’. AL leads the way tossing in his now infamous “dropping gems like a clumsy thief” punchline, before the Phantom Syndicate roll on the set, kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug and then jet. Nice verses from both of the Syndicate emcees, if they are a bit typical of battle/brag lyrics. After Darth’s tonsils expire and he collapses on the floor, some truly awful MCs who redefine the word herb start rhyming, and one (the first) has the most ridiculously soft, pussy ass verse I’ve heard. If there is a gay MC, it’s that cat. Deja pops up again to close the joint and sounds much better here than he did on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, spitting a impressive verse as well. The other cypha track is the UK showcase ‘Hidden Evil’. AL is by far the best emcee on here. After AL, there’s an MC with a strong southern English accent who sounds like he’s never read his lyrics before (Scriptcha), and a hilariously awful cat who has a eerily bizarre and very camp voice (ex-alt.rap head Jay-C) . Following them, is an emcee who’s a complete self-parody of himself with his ridiculously over the top urban-London-music-scene accent. (Youngblood) He should take his stupid ass back to the two step garage scene where he can spit his simple lyrics over a 12000bpm track. The last emcee is aight, nothing special though. (Prestige)
And then there’s the PERV tracks. I’m sorry but I can’t take these seriously, even if I’m not supposed to. These are funny enough for a verse or two, but did ‘PERV 2’ really have to last 4 and a half minutes?? Tiresome. The lines like “Daddy Longstroke in effect”, and the take on the ‘Still DRE’ intro (“guess who’s WACK!”) crack you up to no end, but two tracks at over 3 minutes each?
The only track on here where AL isn’t telling you about how great he is ‘The Story Of Dave’. I don’t know if this is meant to be a subliminal diss track about the Gay Vicar Dave Paget – (*nope, this was done way before I’d even heard of DP – AL*) who knows, but as a track it’s not very good. The story is far from compelling, and as a whole, the lyrics are confusing and pointless. Disappointing.
I doubt this EP was released to launch A to the L into superstar status, and of course it won’t. The style is very repetitive. AL, we know you’re ill already, no more notifications of the fact are necessary, dawg, even if the battle tracks are very impressive. We need more varied sounds here, some concept tracks would be cool, (and no, the ‘PERV’ tracks don’t count.)