Artist: Black Moon
Album: Total Eclipse
Label: Duck Down
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
Even at over 20 years old, hip hop is a genre of music that is still quite young in the grand scheme of things. Most notably, it has shown quite the propensity to take in artists, and in the course of 2-3 years, chew them up and spit them out like a piece of gristle that has been mistaken for prime rib. Which makes the veterans of the hip hop landscape all the more laudable – because if you can get past 4-5 albums, and/or 5-6 years, you must be doing something right.
In the case of Black Moon, much like their career to date, even this set in stone definition carries little to no weight – hamstrung by label complications, they’ve been around for over 10 years… but have only released 2 proper LP’s – their classic debut “Enta Da Stage”, and their overlooked sophomore LP, “Warzone” which was released about 10 years after their debut. So it’s in this vein that the problem that Black Moon faces is apparent – veterans without recognition to the general rap buying public.
That doesn’t excuse them from the most obvious problem that a veteran group faces after being out of the limelight for an extended period however – Irreleventus Comebackus. Going back to the previous chewed up and spit out analogy, such veteran legends as Rakim and EPMD can readily attest to the severity of the affliction.
So as a self-professed Boot Camp and Black Moon fan, I approached the third offering from Black Moon, “Total Eclipse” with trepidation – would this be a rehash of old and tired topics? Would it be a drastic departure from the Black Moon that I’ve enjoyed all these years?
To start things off, unlike many of their Boot Camp brethren, Black Moon stayed true to their sound, employing Baby Paul and Evil Dee of the Beatminerz for the majority of the tracks on the album – whether it’s the murky drone of ‘Stay Real’, the accordian pumped ‘Stoned Iz The Way’, or the organized chaos of ‘That’s How It Iz’, the duo manage to maintain the classic boom bap of their past while invigorating it with updated sounds and samples. The Beatminerz were never about complexity, and it’s when they keep it simple, as they do for the majority of their work on this album, that they’re at their best. What’s interesting however, is how cohesive the outside production also sounds on the LP- from the haunting flute driven ‘Why We Act This Way’ by Nottz, or the stutter step syncopation of ‘Looking Down The Barrel’ by Canadian producer Moss, all the outside production manages to recreate that vintage dusty Black Moon sound while standing out from the Beatminerz fare.
Luckily, the other half of the equation, the lyrical side, manages for the most part to live up to the solid beatmaking as well. Buckshot has been rightfully criticized in the past for having lost the reggae tinged flow that made him such a popular MC in the mid-90’s, and reverting to a more Pac influenced style with drawn out syllables and a generally more droning tone. “Total Eclipse”, while not a return to the Buckshot flow of old, is also not a continuation of the horrific experience heard on his solo outing, “Da BDI Thug” – rather, he seems to have taken a little from each stage in his past, and created something a little bit different. The other lyrical half of Black Moon, 5 Foot, is still there, but much like on previous Black Moon albums, in limited quantities, and much like on previous Black Moon albums, is quite easily the lesser MC of the duo.
Unlike previous Black Moon albums, “Total Eclipse” sports quite the range of topics however, and it is all the better for it. Much of the new topic matter dwells on success or lack thereof in the industry (‘This Goes Out To You’, ‘Stay Real’, ‘Confusion’). This is not necessarily a good thing, as it can get quite monotonous. However, it’s the more introspective tone of the album which garners most of the accolades, such as the self-explanatory ‘Why We Act This Way’ featuring Starang Wondah, or the scenario/reaction idea behind ‘What Would You Do’, which features the criminally underrated Sean Price. And not to worry vintage Black Moon fans- the stick up rhymes and thugged out aspects of Buckshot and 5 Foot remain intact with tracks such as ‘Looking Down The Barrel’ and ‘Fever’.
So even though I am apparently one of the few out there who really thought “Warzone” was a great follow up to “Enta Da Stage” (at least according to the sales numbers), I feel comfortable saying that “Total Eclipse” is at its essence, a more complete and cohesive follow-up to “Enta Da Stage”- and can safely be called it’s spiritual successor. An album as well rounded as this definitely deserves a listen, and definitely avoids the dreaded veteran curse.
Heady praise indeed.