REVIEW: The High & Mighty – Air Force 1

Air Force 1

Artist: The High & Mighty

Album: Air Force 1

Label: Landspeed

Rating: 7 / 10

Reviewer: Gavin-X

With their name attached to various near-classic and classic releases over the last 3 years or so, the Philadelphia duo of Mr. Eon and Mighty Mi have become kings of the underground, not only working with an enormous range of high calibre artists (such as Eminem, Mos Def, Kool Keith and Dilated Peoples), but also establishing their own label Eastern Conference Records several years ago.

Now split from the increasingly commercial Rawkus, High and Mighty find themselves with as much creative freedom as they want, allowing them to release this short EP as a taster for their second full LP, due out later this year. Drawing on all of their incredibly talented Eastern Conference brethren (Cage, Copywrite, J-Zone and Reef) the result is what you’d expect really. Following in the footsteps of the superb “Home Field Advantage”, “Porn Again” and “EC Allstars 2” albums, in this case, more of the same is more than adequate.

Right from the awesome opening cut, ‘Two Minute Drill’, you know that you’re in for quality. It’s all here – the superlative beat from Milo, some excellent vocal samples and Eon doing what he does best, proving himself to be maybe the natural successor to the A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife with the high content of sport references in his rhymes. A very nice intro but track 2 is where it really goes down.

Produced by Reef, ‘Nowhere to Hide At’ is clearly the album’s standout cut, featuring a mind-blowing set of verses from the ever improving, if that’s possible, Copywrite. It is impossible to truly capture the man’s brilliance on this track without hearing it for yourself but here is my favourite line, just to give you an idea: “I’m a cannibal/Beat my dates/But I beat the case/Fuck the pussy your honour, I just wanna eat the face.” You need his album, “The High Exhaulted”, when it drops in the second week of June, it will be incredible.

Completing the outstanding first third of the EP is the J-Zone produced ‘Artillery’ proving that he can make outstanding tracks for people other than his own Old Maid clique. Among his best work to date, the beat is typically banging with shingling percussion and genius vocal samples, allowing Eon a good chance to flex his sometimes overlooked vocal abilities: “Fuck with Eon and J-Zone last / That’s like Edward Scissorhands wiping his own ass.”

Following these three blazing tracks, the EP must go downhill from time to time but after the lacklustre Havoc and RA the Rugged Man track ‘You Don’t Wanna Fuck Wit’, it takes a good old cut-and-paste DJ cut to bring the release back in line. If you heard the Intro to “Home Field Advantage” you know Mi’s nice with his, and ‘Mighty Mi in the Land of Deadstock’ is more of the same with him cutting up everyone from Last Emperor to R.Kelly over a suitably fresh beat.

Considering how good the Smut Peddlers’ album was, a new track from the crew (Eon, Mighty Mi and Cage) was always going to be worth checking for. Thankfully, you will not be disappointed; ‘More In-Outs’ is as good as almost anything they’ve done before, utilising the influential ‘Clockwork Orange’ sample during the track. The beat is truly mesmerising, if a touch Mi-by-numbers, while Cage impresses as usual with his distinctive voice and brand of shock rhymes.

The remainder of the release however is somewhat of a let down; the two skits are diverting enough but not exactly compelling, while the EP’s closing track ‘What’s After’ is just plain dull. Finally, ‘Illadel Jackmove’ continues Milo’s current use of ‘Jackin’ 4 Beats’ style tracks, with Eon laying vocals other various old school beats from fellow Philadelphian artists, including the Fresh Prince and Big Daddy Kane. It’s not so much poor, just pretty average really considering how good Mi’s Air Max ’95 Remix of ‘EC Allstars’ was. Admittedly Mr. Eon can be one of those love/hate MCs, but you really cannot argue over the continuing high quality of Mighty Mi’s almost faultless production: will this man ever run out of beats? For me, I don’t really mind Eon voice, and he can come correct lyrically despite what some might say. This EP might not be his best, personal, showing but the calibre of guest vocalists is sufficiently high as to give him the benefit of the doubt this time.

With the top drawer beats of Mi, Reef and J-Zone, and the lyrical muscle of Copywrite and Cage backing Eon up, Eastern Conference Records really are becoming a serious force to be reckoned with. And looking forward a few months, with further releases from High and Mighty, Cage and Copy to come, 2002 could be the year they truly peak…

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