Artist: Gershwin BLX
Album: Sunch Punch
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Heads in the know will already be aware of the fact that underneath the glossy, made-for-MTV gangsta rap exterior that West Coast Hiphop sports, there exists a healthy and vibrant scene where emcees are more interested in rocking the beats, than riding on their enemies. The Heiro crew, the Pharcyde, the Stone’s Throw collective and LA Symphony are all examples of superb cliques who were (and are) more intent on making good music than throwing out a played out image. Now its the turn of Gershwin B.L.X. (Bassline Xcursionists) to grab some time in the spotlight with their Sunch Punch LP and prove that they are worthy to walk the path that their progressive peers have already laid.
Pop this cd in the player, push play, and instantly you become aware that this is one of those albums that you need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to. There’s a couple of reasons for this – first off, the beats aren’t exactly concocted with clubbing or dancing in mind. Secondly, the emcees spit and spit and spit on every track – this ain’t no sixteen bars and a hook shit – you’re gonna need to concentrate on the rhymes and flows on here, and you’re gonna be forever rewinding to check lyrics. Don’t get the wrong idea though… there’s nothing at all wrong with this album’s formula – in fact its been a little while since I actually had something to review that has been all about the lyrics, and for the most part “Sunch Punch” is an enjoyable effort.
The opening cut, ‘Soundcheck’, captures the essence of B.L.X. perfectly. A drunken bassline stumbles all over a simple drum pattern, while emcees Omnipresent and Monk, curse the soundman out, and at the same time bounce lyrics off each other like Phife and Q-Tip on speed. Its a cut that stands out more because of its simplicity than anything else – the beat isn’t anything special, the bassline on its own would just sound ridiculous, and an accapella of these guys would have you wondering how they could ever rock on beat. Throw it all together though, and things blend perfectly into organised audio chaos. Dope.
This formula is repeated throughout the album – most of the drum patterns serve only to keep the emcees on beat. But when the drums are combined with the little basslines and effects dropped into the mix, and you have emcees like these just wrecking shit on the mics, then its nothing but gravy. Cuts like ‘Offhand’, where the impressive Omnipresent flows and flows AND flows, as DJ See Brown cuts up Kool G Rap, and the superb ‘Bounce Like Tigger’ where Omni is joined by Rezek & Krok to throw down are perfect examples of B.L.X. at their finest. Also worth checking is the bouncy bassline of ‘Cunnilingus’, which features a dark rubbery bassline and some nice little cuts from Kutmasta Kurt.
With B.L.X. consisting of five emcees, two deejays, and a beatman, it was interesting to see how mic time was divided up. Certainly the impressive Omnipresent lives up to his name, appearing on a large portion of the album, but the other emcees are no slouches either. In fact some of the brightest moments on the LP, are the “posse cuts” where everyone gets a chance to shine. The title track seems to have a heavy Liks influence, and features an incredibly funky bassline and a catchy piano loop, while ‘Bamboo’ is a “National Geographic” Hiphop ramble, featuring 6 hype lyricists being complimented by bird calls, and wildlife noises! But its the actual vibe, and kinship, that the emcees display on here that makes these cuts a winner – they genuinely sound like they’re HAVING FUN with Hiphop. Something to be admired in these “keep it real with an ice grill” climates. The deejays aren’t left out either – Perv and See Brown get their chance to shine on ‘Smackdown’ – a cut which features some precise cuts and scratches, snippets from Rakim and Guru, and the funkiest little jazz break this side of a Blue Note compilation.
Its not all plain sailing however. The temptation to experiment, and take things “way out there” backfires a couple of times. ‘Boma-Ye’ with its African(?) tribal rhythms and stuttering beat is just a little too strange. Similarly, ‘Words’ is a little too glossy, coming off like a lounge band trying to play Hiphop and not quite pulling it off, while ‘Grog’ doesn’t quite capture the imagination like the other tracks.
All in all though, this is a thoroughly impressive album, and one which captures the vibe of the Los Angeles underground, (and the Hiphop underground as a whole), perfectly. You really should pick this up.