Artist: Craig G
Album: This Is Now
Label: D&D Records
Rating: 9 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
If you don’t know who Craig G is then:
1) You’re a new jack – go read up on your Hiphop book of knowledge.
2) You don’t check this site much. Otherwise you’d know that I reviewed the official bootleg of this very album recently, and gave a short rundown of who Craig is.
So anyway, just a megaquick recap for the slackers. Craig G. Juice Crew. Marley Marl. The Symphony. Freestyles. 8 Mile. “This Is Now”.
Ya dig? Cool, then lets roll…
Take one Curt Cazal beat, PACKED with electricity. Take one emcee from the Golden Era. Put em together, and the opening track, ‘Don’t Care Who We Bang’ is the hot result. Craig opens the album in a style reminiscient of Canibus (if homeboy concentrated more on skills and delivery than long words and science projects in his rhymes) – gruff voiced, bouncing off the beat as it hammers along. Its a heavy heavy intro for those who may be unaware – Craig sounds hungry as hell on the mic, and his aggressiveness competes for your ears with the excellent Cazal beat…
“I’ll battle you on the corner by your local bodega
Or catch you on your job by the freight elevator
We can do it in the hospital while your girl is in labour
You must be signed to the Roots – you’re just Okay player
I’ll battle you at a rock concert with Def Leppard and Slayer
Or catch you at your video shoot, outta breath in the trailer
We can do it over the net, fuck it dog, I’ll email ya
Been like this since the Giants signed a back named Taylor”
Following up something so hot is usually a problem, but when you bring in big guns like the Alchemist and Premier, then shit should get handled. ‘Wrong Chick’ features Alchemist behind the boards, providing a mellow 70’s-styled theme for Craig to tell the tale of a girl who ran the wrong side of the tracks in search of the cabbage, while ‘Read Set Begin’ is just Primo at his “by-numbers” best. Critics will bring up the fact that the loop is unchanging throughout, with Premier’s trademark scratching laid over the top, but when it sounds as DOPE as this, then WHO CARES? Oh, and Craig rips the track to pieces too. Superb.
The list of big name producers doesn’t stop there either. Rockwilder comes through and blesses Craig with a genuine club banger on ‘Stomped’, while Large Professor’s siren-heavy beat supports both him and Craig G member perfectly as they trade rhymes on ‘Love Is Love.’ Elsewhere Da Beatminerz’ minimal production on ‘Make You Say Yes’ is a sonic departure from the heavy-hitting sounds spread throughout the rest of the album, but still does a nice of making the head nod. Here Craig shares the mic with D&D labelmate Krumb Snatcha. But its current single ‘Let’s Get Up’ which piqued my interest – a mini Juice Crew reunion of sorts sees Craig linking up with mentor Marley Marl again for a track that manages to bridge the gap between mid school and new school perfectly. With its familiar break, and Craig delivering more aggressive rhymes, this is pure dope.
Its the producers who are perhaps a little less famous who hold down most of the album though – and what a job they do. Curt Cazal pops up again, with a Spanish-tinged backing track on ‘Place Ya Bets’ which again Craig rides perfectly. ‘Do It Over Again’ sees producer Domingo in Just Blaze mode, with another track that utilises the oft-bitten speeded-up-soul-sample-as-hook trick. However, this one is beautiful, jacking ‘If I Had A Chance’ by Walter Jackson with amazing results, as Craig gets autobiographic for your ears. It also serves to illustrate that despite his reputation as a fearsome battle rhymer, Craig G is NOT one-dimensional (cue another Canibus comparison), as he flows effortlessly, talking about his upbringing, and his meetings with Marley Marl on his way to success. DJ Sage, Caspa, and Arabian Knight and Will Pack also handle the boardwork at various points on the album, with mostly positive outcomes.
Elsewhere a couple of tracks that really caught my ear were ‘Now That’s What’s Up’ and ‘Dribble Or Shoot’. The former is another track aimed at the club audience, with Mr Cheeks fresh from his appearance on Lil Kim’s ‘Jump Off’ track providing a guest verse. Since I first heard this on the bootleg, this cut has grown on me a lot, and I’ve been including it in a few of my DJ sets to positive responses from heads. ‘Dribble Or Shoot’ meanwhile stands out due to the production from The Huma Orchestra. As you may have guessed, the whole thing is beatboxed from start to finish, but the beat is seriously uptempo, and here Craig G dismantles the mic with Afu Ra. Yes, that Afu Ra! The one who can’t buy a positive review on altrap.com. He really stepped his game up here – he had to to stop Craig blowing him away. Nice to see an improvement.
Don’t think hot beats is what this whole review is about though – of course lyrics is what is the main thing in this game. Craig’s bonus cut which features several minutes of accapella freestyles proves how ill he is coming off the top, and he’s also humble enough to leave the cut running without editing out where he makes a few mistakes and miscues.
“Maximum overload, I’m here to take control of your soul
Grab a hold of the flow, you oppose spit a fo’ at your nose
Add another nostril, me and my apostles
Run the streets without a meal or a deal, that’s why we hostile”
It looks like D&D are as serious about quality music coming out on their LABEL as they were when it was coming out of their studio. This album is excellent – the beats are fresh throughout, and Craig G hasn’t lost anything over the years, still delivering his rhymes in devastating fashion. This is one of this years top ten albums – you need to cop this. If not simply for the fact that its dope, then cop it for the fact that THIS will be giving Craig the props he should have got years ago. Grab it.