Label: Don Productions
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Try listing successful Hiphop artists from Harlem, New York, and you’ll start to run out of names after Big L, Mase, and Cam’ron. Well, now Euphon have tossed their hat in the arena, aiming to make a name for themselves and rep East Harlem and the ideals of true Hiphop to the fullest while doing so. The duo of Mr Fantastik and Slim Pikins have released “Euphonics” hoping that their blend of Hiphop, jazz, funk, and soul bring them the same levels of success as a group they’re often sonically compared to – A Tribe Called Quest.
The first thing that strikes you about this release is its brevity – trimming off the intro and outro skit, it weighs in at a rather skimpy 8 tracks long. Perhaps its better to speak of this from now on as an EP rather than an LP… but then maybe 8 nice tracks standing alone is better than 8 nice tracks sandwiched by 8 servings of hot filler. Lets take a taste…
I feel its always important to start an album off with a hot track – obviously Euphon feel the same way as ‘Mongo Slade’ is sizzling. In addition to laying down rhymes, Slim Pikins’ production mixture of rising melodic strings, wah-wah guitars, and snippets of ‘Lets Do It Again’ flying in and out of the chorus, definitely illustrates that he’s nice on the boards. Over a beat like this, it’d be hard not to be feeling an emcee who flows well, and the Euphon duo definitely ride the rhythm perfectly.
This is quickly followed by the rhumba vibe of ‘Live From Machito Sq.’, an infectious little party number that instantly gets your neck to snappin’, before ‘Member’ goes all retrospective on us. Emcee Trick #2367826 is of course making sure that your album carries at least one track that sees the artist(s) looking back at their past with happy memories, and often wishing that they could bring things back to those feelgood times. ‘Member’ sees Euphon attempting this trick, and pulling it off surprisingly well – the usual thoughts are here – “Hiphop was better”, “as kids we had fun doing x, y, z”, “television was doper then”, “moms used to do
“‘Member when you actually did what your momma told ya?
When you couldn’t understand until you got older?
I ‘member the Smurfs, Pro-Keds, and Donkey Kong,
‘Member when I heard my very first Hiphop song,
I ‘member the day they brought home my baby brother,
Before cancer and Newports took my grandmother.”
‘Unbreakable’ continues the more introspective theme, again covering familiar tales, but again managing to find the balance between dope and cliched perfectly. Here Slim and Fantasik speak on their struggles to hold down regular jobs while chasing a Hiphop dream, and all this over a Kanye West-styled sped up sample from Barbera Streisand. Its jacked to perfection though, and makes the perfect hook.
After setting such a high standard so far, its not hard to fight the feeling that a fall of sorts must be due. Unfortunately, ‘Dreamchasers’ does see Euophon take a little stumble. It has the basis of a good track – the classical music sample is tight, but somehow when the shuffly drum track is laid over the top things suddenly start to sound a little off. In addition the chorus is more than a little irritating, with a bad Kool Keith impression grating on the nerves (think “I don’t neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed” – seasoned vets will know what I’m talking about.)
Luckily its only a temporary slip though, as ‘Hot Commodity’ and ‘Raiders Of The Lost Art’ pull things back onto a more even keel. The former track is classic Hiphop music – a kicking drum track, and two emcees rocking the mic, as producer DS tosses piano stabs and strings into the mix. The Euphonics duo come off perfectly, “knitting words together like sweaters for Dr Huxtable”, and sounding more like a cross between Jurassic 5 and PUTS and less like the more softspoken Tip and Phife duo they oft compared to. ‘Raiders Of The Lost Art’ reminds me of Limp Bizkit’s ‘All N Together Now’ – its similarly paced, and the symphonic strings conjure up instant images of Mr Durst and Mr Meth rocking Primo beats. Fortunately both of the Euphon emcees come off much nicer than anything the red-capped one can force out of his little tattooed body.
Bringing the album to a conclusion, the sophisicated sounds of ‘Time’ usher in probably the best track on the whole caboodle. Using the same sped up hook as Young Gunz recently used for their track of the same name (First Choice’s ‘All I Need Is Time’), laid over a wistful piano break, this melancholic look at how everyone is affected by the passage of the clock will bring you to a temporary halt as you’re struck by how deep these cats are getting…
“Like sands thru the hourglass – future, present and past,
Spanning beginning to end, and first to last,
And the evidence is not evident as it appears,
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years,
They say it tells, and that everyone’s will come,
They say it heals, and Red said it was for action,
Like it not – we all watch it, all clock it,
And no 88 mile-an-hour Delorean can stop it”
The brevity of “Euphonics” works both for Euphon and against them. The quality of the material, and the fact that there’s not really any filler on here, means that almost every song does what good Hiphop is meant to – the head keeps nodding while the emcees actually speak intelligently to you. The flip side of this is, that it IS so good that the end comes around far too soon, leaving you wanting more, and feeling almost a little angry that these eight songs are the only look you’re getting for now. Maybe this is the overall plan though – the theory of ‘leaving them wanting more’ definitely applies here, and fresh material from these cats would be warmly welcomed.