Artist: Little Egypt
Album: Straight Out The Sands
Label: East Park
Rating: 8 / 10
In the fast paced and increasingly commercial world of modern hip-hop it’s a pleasant surprise to come across a group that you’ve never heard of before; for once, no preconceptions and no praise/contempt simply by association. Similarly refreshing is the fact that Little Egypt’s debut full length release is a totally ‘in house’ affair. With no big name producers or guest rappers for the crew to hide behind it is a true test of a new group’s ability, and one that undoubtedly all dÃ©butantes should be required to pass before being allowed to mix with whoever is ‘hot’ at the moment. The good news is that, for the most part, Little Egypt impress both with the mic and behind the boards.
The production, predominantly handled by Visual Poetics, is very soulful and engaging, carving it’s own small niche in the hip-hop soundscape. Coming off somewhere between Prince Paul’s work on the first Gravediggaz album and more recent beats from the Wu-Tang camp, you will find plenty of stirring strings and contrasting eerie pianos throughout the LP. That, however, is part of the problem; over the course of a whole full length release, the initially impressive production can all start to sound very similar, with few beats standing out as being that bit more deserving of your attention than the rest.
Any new group of MCs coming out of New York are of course going to be compared to the other all star crews from the East Coast, especially the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. More so than ever, however, comparisons to Shaolin’s finest are perhaps more apt, with the two groups sharing similar ideologies, as well as production tastes. Mic duties fall mainly to Taajwar who equips himself well over the album’s 13 cuts, with a style halfway between Inspectah Deck and underground star C-Rayz Walz, and trust me, that is no bad thing at all. The lyrical concerns of Little Egypt are certainly more relevant than many of today’s rap groups, calling for unity and spirituality in the hectic game of life, but overall, Taajar and the other 4 MCs (Forge, Visual Poetics, Khodz-255 and Bravestar) don’t quite push the lyrical envelope in the way that the Wu still do, leaving an album that is well above average on all counts, but without that allusive extra ‘something’ that the supergroup-esque Gravediggaz had in their prime.
And that about sums up the album as a whole; above average, but not outstanding, and for a new crew wanting to quickly establish themselves, that might not be quite enough to get their LP into enough crates to properly break through, the way the Wu did with “36 Chambers.” You can’t really point to a bad track on the album but similarly there are only a few songs which really stand out: the crew’s manifesto, ‘Introducing…’, the superb first single, ‘Sunrise’, its b-side ‘Just For The Record,’ and the two slower, smoother joints, ‘One Mind’ and ‘I Like What You Do For Me,’ each showing the crew pushing themselves that little bit further and hinting at the enormous ability they clearly possess. Here, the production is a touch more inventive or powerful, suiting the 5 MCs that little bit better and resulting in excellent tracks that any of the aforementioned established groups would be proud of.
While undoubtedly more deserving of attention than mainstream favourites such as Ja Rule, I fear that maybe this nice release from Little Egypt may be overlooked simply because of the anonymity I mentioned at the opening of this review. For some of us, independence is a virtue, but unfortunately we’re in the minority. Maybe if Little Egypt had got Timbaland’s brother’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend to produce half the LP they’d get the attention they clearly deserve, but as it is, they’ll just have to settle with putting out one of the better albums this year so far…