Album: From The Boondox
Label: Arden Entertainment
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Diatribe is a seven man outfit that is steadily gaining a reputation on the live circuit for their infectious blend of Hiphop, reggae and funk. With bass, drums, guitar, and electric trombone backing up the regular Hiphop staples of emcees and deejay, their “From The Boondox” certainly promises to be a break from the hardcore posturing of the commercial face of Hiphop music at the moment.
Before we start lets get one thing clear. A to the L hates guitars. Guitars and Hiphop don’t mix. Let me explain… I see nothing wrong in using a electric guitar to produce the funky “plucked” sounds that Dr Dre is using at the minute, or the menacing strumming on Kool G Rap’s ‘Take Em To War’. The problem begins when groups use guitars as a crutch to prop up a song – I sometimes feel that Hiphop artists think “Damn, I’ve paid nuff money to have this guitar guy play on my track. I better give him a little solo break in the song around the 3 minute mark”. Think ‘Sophisticated Bitch’ by PE, or Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ – both pretty tight songs that instantly became a turn off for me once the guitar solos started. With this in mind, lets proceed with the review…
*pops cd in player*
Ok my major fear here was that these guys were gonna come off like Limp Bizkit or something. Thankfully this is not the case. The opening cut ‘Soul Cent’ is incredibly catchy, sounding like a bugged out high school marching band, with some heavy scratches and cuts dropped over the top. This is incredibly funky, but a little short. I woulda liked to hear more of this.
The next cut ‘Singin’ In The Reign’ is a little more commercial with its memorable hook and happy vibe. Its no surprise then to learn that this has been getting some play on radios in Philly. However despite the presence of emcees spitting verses here, there’s very little Hiphop feel to this track, in fact you could remove the raps and still release this as a single. I can understand that Diatribe have many different influences and appeal to different people and thus I understand why this track is here – but I don’t really feel it.
Luckily the next couple of tracks pick things up again. ‘New Direction’ is one of the nicest cuts on the album, featuring production that’s very Beastie-esque. A funky guitar lick keeps the groove going with some nice Pete Rock samples scratched in. ‘Sum Truth’ is a more laidback cut, and has a very rootsy feel. This one is much more reggae influenced, although I did like the KRS reference – nice to see an emcee pay their respects to the pioneers.
I defy anyone to listen to the intro to ‘Shangra La’ and not think of 2pac’s ‘Do For Love’. Not sure if the Diatribe guys are aware of it, but the similarity is amazing. ‘Shranga La’ is another standout cut, incorporating the already mentioned 2pac-ish bassline, a bouncy reggae refrain, and some nice turntable scratches. This is pure funk – and its bloody good.
Ahh, we come upon the first cut where the electric guitar is a main feature… ‘Contact’ is most definitely not my cup of tea, and so I’m not gonna comment much on it at all. The later cut ‘Mountains’ also features plenty of heavy electric guitar, and sounds like a Red Hot Chilli Peppers track. Both theses cuts are cool in their own way I suppose, but its not something I’m really into.
The remaining two album tracks are ‘Which Dr.’ and ‘Time’. The former features an infectious reggae style, and is a nice way to break up the “guitarism” of the ‘Contact’ and ‘Mountains’ tracks. ‘Time’ meanwhile is a slow mellow groove, which reminds me of Sting for some reason. This is a perfect example of what this group is about, as all the elements in the band come together to produce a dope rhythm track with some nice vocals.
Diatribe aint gonna be everyone’s thing, and its something that’s not gonna appeal to your typical run-of-the-mill NY grimy head who blasts DMX and Norega all day either. But then these type of people are usually quite close-minded anyway. And in my opinion they’re missing out on a treat – Diatribe for me, were a welcome break from the normal hyperactivity of the rap game, and this album definitely features some nice ideas. They also sound like they could sound even better doing this stuff live – check em out if they’re in your area.