Artist: Sweat Shop Union
Label: Underworld Records
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Fans of the Canadian Hiphop underground may already be well aware of groups like Dirty Circus, Innocent Bystanders, Kyprios, and Creative Minds. For the rest of us though, the decision by these four creative outlets to bump heads together and put out this effort under the Sweat Shop Union moniker will be our first experience of these groups’ range of talent. Released on Underworld Records, itself a subsidiary of the more-familiar BattleAxe Records (home of Swollen Members) its no surprise to find out that the ‘Members are involved here in some fashion – Rob The Viking handles production on five tracks.
Things certainly start off the right way, with the quick funky groove of ‘Union Dues’ supporting the aggressive rhymes of the clique as they introduce themselves to the ears. The bubbly beat becomes increasingly more adddictive the longer the track continues, and DJ ItchyRon’s old-school flavoured cuts and scratches top things off nicely. ‘Feelin’ Alright’ and ‘The Human’s Race’ continue to take things in a positive direction, with the former cut being Rob The Viking’s first outing on the boards. Its a decidely Jungle Brothers-esque cut (I even spy a JB sample in there from the track of the same name!), with a simple piano loop laid over a simple ascending / descending bassline and a shuffling drum pattern. Lyrically, its a bugged trip through the psyche of Kyprios, who doesn’t really care what you think of him, as long as he’s “feelin’ alright”. ‘The Human’s Race’ is a much deeper track, breaking down the faults and flaws in mankind over a morose Treefrog beat, and one that really can’t be given enough props by simply WRITING about it – you have to HEAR it. Check the chorus though, for a glimpse of how ill this is…
“Inside the place where we hide out face,
And try to fake out fate with the faith we place,
Inside a worldwide race where the humans chase,
For more than what we’re given.”
Things continue with the swirling ‘Don’t Mind Us’ – a tongue in cheek attack on the glamour and glitz of the commerical rap and R’n’B scene which features the Innocent Bystanders portion of the collective rocking an uptempo Mos Eisley beat to full effect. Later in the album, ‘The Truth We Speak’ features the Dirty Circus heads rocking a similar beat (this time by Metty The DertMerchant) with the same impressive results. Part of the attraction is not only the confident flow that each emcee possesses, or the undeniable quality of the beats themselves… its the vibe they give off. Its that Jurassic 5-styled shot at emulating old school harmonies, only with a few less portions of cheese – on this album Sweat Shop make their attempts sound a lot less forced than the prehistoric quintet. Elsewhere, the bouncy ‘Prose & Cons’ and the fabulous ‘Breath’ both impress, with the beat / lyric quality being high in both instances. Rob The Viking’s other deliveries also impress on here – in particular, the deep ‘Labor Pains’, with its string heavy double-beat, and ‘Blue Collar Ballad’ with its jazz-club feel and catchy “who the hell you think I am” hook both leave a stamp of quality all over this.
Letdowns? Few and far between really. The pedestrian ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ is a damp squib amongst the fireworks, and the muted trumpet on the chorus of ‘President’s Choice’ irritates like that itch you just can’t scratch.
Apart from that though, the rest is solid progressive Hiphop. It certainly ain’t gonna be everyone’s ideal purchase – some will point to the fact that the emcees sounds a little too (*shock, horror*) white for a few acquired tastes. Others will find the whole thing a little too “highbrow”… with a little too much of a “backpacker” sound for them. And that’s cool – do your thing. Meanwhile, I’ll rewind this shit and start from the top again. If you’re open to new sights and sounds – pick this up.