REVIEW: Community Service – The Essence Mixtape

Community Service

Artist: Community Service

Album: The Essence Mixtape

Label: Community Service

Rating: 6.5 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

The mixtape market is a fickle thing, and new entrants to this arena need to bear a few things in mind – if you’re a DJ, you can have no arms and be tone deaf and STILL sell tapes and cds. All you need to be able to do is push play on your cd player. Don’t believe me? Hey – look at DJ Whoo Kid. Meanwhile, if you’re an emcee, you need to be pretty special to put out a mix cd that will hold the listener’s interest from start to finish. Why? Well most people look as mixtape verses as freestyles – they’re disposable… something to hold you over until the REAL album comes out with the REAL songs.

This second point becomes an issue for the homies at Community Service. The reason? Well this Chicago collective have chosen to display their lyrical talents over assorted beats by the legendary DJ Premier. Yes its a great idea in theory – you KNOW you’re gonna have some banging tracks to spit on – but in practice its a much more difficult job to make a totally enjoyable project. One thing that occasionally grates, is that the tracks are looped up in such a way that the original chorus breaks are removed, resulting in long periods of nothing but rhyming. Many would ask where the problem is with this, but honestly, being bombarded with lyrics non-stop with few opportunities for a breather with a chorus or hook gets more that a little repetitive.

One of the other major complaints with this style of mixtape is that most of the time the original song lyrics are right at the forefront of your mind as you listen, and the conflict between familiar words and newly-laid verbals, by new unfamiliar voices is another bugbear.

Anyway, for your hard-earned, here’s what you get – 14 tracks featuring residents of Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, and Little Village amongst others spitting hard over Primo’s greatest beats – the back catalogue gets ganked hard, as the Community drop the verbals over production previously heard under Gang Starr, CNN, Mos Def, DITC, Jay-Z, Lox, Nas and OC tracks. The results do suffer from the two problems detailed above, but looking past those for a second and focusing solely on the performance on the of the crew, its hard NOT to come to the conclusion that Community Service are a group of talented individuals, with Visual in particular impressing with his words at times.

It’d be nice to see them build on this and push some original product out onto the market. They’re definitely repping Chicago correctly, and giving yet another look that’s different from the Kanye West steelo.

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