Album: LA Confidential Presents… Knoc-turnal
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
King Tee. Hittman. Rakim. The new NWA. All four have something in common – at one point or another they’ve all become members of the Dr Dre “Pushback” club. The what? Well, its a little game Dre has going on with different artists he signs – he signs them to Aftermath, works on a few tracks… the fans get excited… and then… Nada. Nathan. Zilch. No album. Not even TALK of an album. At first requests for the info are met with the usual “we’re back in the studio tweaking a few things”, but eventually most talk dies out, most interest wanes, and we move onto the next project. In the case of the above, it took King Tee to leave Aftermath before he could put out his “Thy Kingdom Come” album himself. Hittman? God knows. Rakim – despite the talk I’m still not convinced – this has been three years in the making. NWA? Dead in the water.
And so we turn to Knocturnal. Another member of Dre’s club perhaps? Lets examine the evidence. His “Knoc’s Landin” album has had 3 different release dates, each one moved as the day approached. The explanations have ranged from the industry standard “bastard bootleggers” excuse to the aforementioned “tweaking some more” line. What is clear though, is that if Knoc didn’t drop something soon, all the hype he garned after appearing on Dre’s ‘Bad Intentions’ single, would (and perhaps has already started to) disappear. Elektra, to their credit, have tried to plug the gaps by releasing first of all a couple of white label freestyle 12’s by the man himself (check the singles reviews), and now this stopgap EP. All the cuts on here WERE part of the original lineup on the album, but with that joint going “back to the lab”, its unclear if that will still be the case.
Anyways, things kick off with the familiar tones of ‘The Knoc’. You SHOULD know this by now – bouncy Dre production, signature Dre synths flitting in and out, topped off with a cameo by Missy Elliott on the chorus. Lyrically, Knoc ain’t gonna win any awards, but he does a more than adequate job with his not-as-laidback-as-Snoop-and-not-as-eloquent-as-Kurupt flow.
The next cut, ‘Muzick’ is an anthemic production by Kayne West which samples Paul McCartney, while managing to suit like a cross between an outtake from “The Eminem Show” and a Parliament / Funkadelic cut. Its absolutely dripping with funk, and this in turn inspires Knoc as lyrically he takes it up a notch on this West Coast ode to the “woman” in his life.
The next couple of tracks are straight up posse cuts – a remix of ‘Str8 Westcoastin’ features Warren G, Shade Shiest, Nate Dogg, and Xzibit, whilst ‘Let’s All Roll’ has Knoc throwing down with Slip Capone, Timebomb, Jay O Felony and Butch Cassidy. The former cut is an uptempo Dre circa 2002 track, ie. one looped beat, a guitar sample floating in and out, with synths dripping all over the track. Now isn’t the time to debate Dre’s increasingly lazy production techniques, so lets just say that the beat ain’t the best he’s ever knocked out, but it ain’t as tired as Mary J’s ‘Family Affair’. Lyrically Knoc-turnal is competent on the mic, outrhyming Warren G (admittedly not the hardest thing to do)… but ultimately its Mr X to tha Z who owns the track. Meanwhile ‘Let’s All Roll’ is a Fred Wreck produced track that instantly conjures up images of Above The Law’s ‘V.S.O.P.’ Again, its another bouncy number, and definitely the stronger of the two posse cuts.
The final couple of tracks are both worth a few extra spins. The extremely laidback ‘LA Nite-N-Day’, a self produced track where Knoc namechecks dozens of rappers who have given props to LA in their rhymes or actions. The fact that the majority of these are NY rappers does not go unnoticed either – is this perhaps another little dig at the East Coast, or am I just looking to hard for something that ain’t there? Rounding things off is another mellow cut, ‘Cash Sniffin’ Hoes’, which is a wickedly misogynistic joint. Not surprisingly really when you realise that Too $hort is involved. Musically, the track is fairly simplistic – its really a looped piano break and a bump-bump-snap drum routine, but its the combination of this and Short Dog that really make this worthwhile. Again, Knoc has the show stolen from him by a guest.
That’s it. Let’s be honest – a hell of a lot of people will have heard the bootleg of the album, and will already be familiar with these tracks. For them, it may not be worth grabbing this. For those still in the dark, its a pretty inexpensive way to check out the Knoc, and it may be an enjoyable experience to do so. The real test will come though when the full length is released – have Elektra (or more probably, Dre) done enough to keep Knoc-turn’al in the public eye, or have they blown his chance? Only time will tell.