REVIEW: Tha Liks – X.O. Experience

X.O. Experience

Artist: Tha Liks

Album: X.O. Experience

Label: Loud

Rating: 7 / 10

Reviewer: DJ MF

Coming out of Killa Cali, the group formerly known as Tha Alkaholiks returns to bless the hip hop nation with their 4th full length release on Loud Records. Comprised of MC’s Tash and J-Ro, and uber-producer E-Swift, Tha Liks have become known worldwide for their party thumping tracks, and their general love of all the vices available in one’s life, including alcohol of course. Don’t let the gimmick fool you though, as Tash in particular has one of the most distinctive and fun to listen to flows in all of hip hop.

The name change came about for commercial purposes of course, as Loud believed that with a name like Tha Alkaholiks, the commercial success that was being seeked out wouldn’t occur, so hence the newfound Liks moniker. A symbolic gesture perhaps, but as you’ll see later on, maybe it also signifies a new path for the crew. So grab a bottle of Henny, a philly, and sit back and enjoy :

Things start off with a now standard Liks intro, with somebody telling you about alcoholism. Nothing special. Almost immediately after this, and blended perfectly in, is the start of ‘Bar Code’ which features Likwit Crew affiliate Xzibit, and is comprised of production by E-Swift. A very interesting beat here, with a staggered bassline, and a very cool usage of violins to accentuate the drum claps. It’s a little slower than the normal Liks stuff, and in my opinion, a little darker as well. Tash sets it off, and drops a fairly short and simple braggadacio verse, which is then followed by J-Ro doing much of the same. A pretty wack chorus then drops, celebrating the art of drinking. Oh well. Mr. X to the Z then blesses the mic, sporting the same weirdish flow that he used on the ‘Year 2000′ track he did last year. I ain’t too big a fan of that. Tash and J-Ro clean things up after the chorus again in the same tag-team style, and track one is done, with mixed feelings from me, mostly due to the chorus’ complete ineptitude.

Up next comes ‘Run Wild’, with the very distinct beat stylings of hot producer of the moment Rockwilder, with his trademark rubbery basslines, and signature rhythmic electronic bleeps. A fairly laid back beat in total however, something I haven’t really heard from Rock, apart from his work with Prodigy on ‘Gun Play’. This track also features the R&B vocals of Shae Fiol, who doesn’t really add much in my opinion, although I can’t front on her voice, which is nice. In contrast to the relatively laid back beat, Tash and J-Ro just RIP this track, utilizing a much faster paced flow than I expected, and consisting of subject matter which describes how they “run wild”. Not too inventive, but it sounds good, and I’m head nodding, as Tash drops some gems –

“(Run Run), We go all out to ball out
CaTash be runnin wild like ARRAGH – who let the dogs out?
(Run wild) break yo’self through the maze
We rockin ninety-thousand underground at the raves
(Say what?) Dialogue is strange, I wrote this in the rain
I do what I do then I pop that champagne.”

The next track, ‘L-I-K-S’ hits you off with some very nice horns for a loop, matched up with a bassline that sounds lifted directly off of Busta Rhymes’ ‘Bus-a-Bus’ track from his last LP. A nice combo, and in the background you’ve got some female voice’s ad libbing over the lyrics, and providing the chorus, which is your standard spell out scenario, with each letter meaning something of course. There’s a GREAT interlude near the middle of the song where everything just stops save for the lyrics, and this really cool sounding high pitched synth drops in a loop. This is retained from that point on, and adds a great extra dimension to the track. The lyrics here are your basic crew shoutout, with Tash shining brightest once again. Remember – style, style, style!

“Aiyyo Tha Liks work beats like Custom Auto
When the fans hear the name they straight rush a bottle
It’s two-thou’ now niggaz what’s the motto?
(Keep it pourin motherfucker) ahh ’til it hurts to swallow
I got a Rollo-ass style with no strings attached
If you ain’t come to battle don’t bring yo’ raps
It’s Tha Liks baby, yeah yeah the same team
Yo Swift, tell these niggaz what the fuck the name means.”

Up next on the menu is a short skit which serves as an intro to the track AFTER that, ‘Bully Foot’, which is produced by DJ Scratch and features the unmistakeable voice of the aforementioned Busta Rhymes. Unlike much of Busta’s work, which sounds like it’s going to explode half the time, this is a much more laid back track, with a jazzy guitar lick, and a pretty simple funky bassline driving the song. Very simple, but nicely arranged. I’ve never been a huge fan of Busta, but he does a decent job here, and Tha Liks hold down the fort as per usual. My issue again, lies with the freakin’ chorus, which is pretty lame, and is sung by all involved. Just sounds far too out of place in a track like this, and is too nursery-rhyme like.

Likwit Crew affiliate Defari pops up next for the track ‘My Dear’. Holy cow, this beat is bananas. E-Swift is behind the boards here again, and he comes up with an inventive beat that is so unlike anything I’ve ever heard from Tha Liks before, that I had to check 3 times to make sure it was him behind the production. A low, driving, rumbling bassline, some church bells, and the inclusion of a what sounds like 4 or 5 voices singing the chorus to ‘Passing Me By’ which is layered, so as one voice is in the middle of it, the other starts, kinda like those singing games you played in elementary school. Some nice cuts finish the deal off, and so far, this is by far the coolest beat on the CD. The lyrics on this one stray from the topics of before, and deal with the wooing of a female at a club. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it works amazingly here –

“Call me J-Ro, or Daddy, you bad you mistaken
If you thought you had me, twisted like a bad knee
Type of cat that won’t call you back, make you bring me cognac
And a whole zone of that, hop yo’ ass out my lap
Fuck out, you gotta go, quit runnin yo’ mouth
You good for nothin but, layin yo’ ass all on my couch
It’s cold outside, but you still gotta be out
Get out my doorway girl, you lettin all my heat out.”

A pretty useless interlude follows again, thankfully only running 20 seconds, and we get to the 9th track of the CD, ‘DA DA DA DA’. The difference in production from everything else thus far, quite markedly so, and a quick skim of the liner notes shows that indeed, production is handled by Thayod. The end result is an upbeat cartoony sounding bassline reminiscent of the Beatnuts, mixed with some strings floating in the background. The bassline reigns supreme here though, and pretty much well overpowers sonically. The chorus is bad once again, this time a chanted rendition of the title of the song. This sounds strangely like something from the past, musically speaking, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Tash, J-Ro, and even E-Swift, once again ripping it, this time with J-Ro having the better punchlines and metaphors, although again, the subject matter doesn’t stray too far from the old “we want to have fun, drink, and smoke up” theme.

What starts out as another skippable interlude in the next track ’40 OZ Quartet Part I’ quickly becomes a great track, albeit far too short. A methodical drum and bass beat is paired with the sound of someone making the noise that you get when you blow over the top of an empty bottle. The great part about the noise? It’s playing the melody to ‘Moments of Love’ by Art of Noise. Sounds amazing, but again, way too short. Some more inventive production is up next for the track ‘Sickness’ featuring Butch Cassidy, as Rockwilder adjusts his formula a bit, to provide yet another rubbery bassline, but this time adds in some Jay-Dee like claps, and some weird Neptunes-like electronic effects. Sounds good, and gives a real spacey feel to the whole thing. Butch provides the hook here, and again it suffers from too much R&Bishness. I really don’t know what got into Tha Liks on this album really, in regards to the choruses, since most everyone thus far is just straight up booty. Tash drops some great lines here, taking a lot of current events to craft some great punchlines, and everything mainly deals with how Tha Liks love alcohol so much.

“Aiyyo who stole the soul? I did cause I was desperate
Send a random note to Loud – I want a million for my next shit
I know you got the money Steve just reach into that grab bag
Then step back and watch me drop these “Bombs On Baghdad”
Cause Tash rap melodical, drunk periodical
Niggaz think they hot but I’m seein they ain’t got it though
I’m from L.A. you from Idaho, no skills you gotta go
Four albums deep, so y’all motherfuckers gotta know.”

What sounds like a slowed, and quieted down loop of MOP’s ‘Ante Up’ is on deck next for the track ‘Goin’ Crazy’.
The aformentioned loop applied to the horn section only, which provides the melody of the track here, in addition to a pretty complex drum pattern. This sounds more like Tha Liks I know, and it’s hard to quantify really. It’s just that Tash and J-Ro just sound more comfortable in this beat for whatever reason. Again though, a pretty booty sung chorus, done in a fake falsetto voice by some unknown. The first single of the LP, ‘Best U Can’ is up next, and you may have heard this on the radio already, if not in the clubs, where it seems to be aimed at. You’ve got Neptunes production here that sounds very similar to ‘I Just Wanna Luv U’ by Jay-Z from last year, right down to the blips, and the sung chorus that sounds like a sample. Some nice touches include the choir-like effect added to the chorus, and the cool drum pattern. BUT, this just doesn’t sound like a Liks beat, no matter how hard they try lyrically. It just sounds too “jiggy” for lack of a better word. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either, and as a hopeful breakout single, I don’t think it really epitomizes what Tha Liks are all about.

We get to part two of ’40 OZ Quartet’ next, and again, we get that cool blowing in the empty bottles sound, this time playing the melody to Eric B and Rakim’s ‘Eric B Is President’ mixed with a slow paced drum and bass beat, albeit a bit more upbeat than the one used in part one. They also use an echo effect for part of Tash’s verse here, which sounds pretty dope too.

E-Swift is behind the boards again for the following track, entitled ‘Anotha Round’, which has a bassline eerily similar to the one Swift used for Tash’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’ single from his debut LP. It’s really catchy, and it just begs to be bumped in a club. In addition to the bassline, there’s a sprinkling of some harplike strings, and a decent, but not good by any means, chorus. Lyrics are the treat here again, as this is another track that sounds like it would be at home when placed next to some of Tha Liks earlier works. The final skit of the LP follows, and is 30 seconds of nothing to write about. Oops, guess I just did.

The mighty King Tee makes his obligatory Liks appearance on the next track, ‘The Bubble’, and fittingly, E-Swift provides a beat that sounds like it has hundreds of bubbles popping in rhythmic fashion. The beat is REALLY nice, and the happy sounding bubble noises are countered nicely by the muddy and dark bassline which sounds like a series of small burps here. As I expected, Likwit patriarch King Tee comes out on top here lyrically, making me question yet again why this man isn’t more loved throughout the hip hop world in general.

“Imperialistic without doubt, the King’ll blast your character out
So stop playin with it, you fadin in it
I stay with it, let me present the crown sound
Constricted with the Likwit, the ticket round town
The wicked wild sound unleashed out the cage
Plus the Alkaholiks got the bar on stage
Get pissy, Tipsy got a baggy full of cavi
J-Ro put D’s on the Mavi’ Swift got TV’s in the Caddy
Tash kept it all factory The Likwid far from tacky
Even if I step in the Sky Bar, K-Swiss and hard khakis
Y’all niggaz better be happy, let me bubble”

Another Xzibit assisted track follows, with ‘151’. This is so not-Liks sounding, it’s not even funny. A super dark and menacing bassline paired with a haunting single key note, and some zigga zigga sounds comprise the beat. This sounds like it would be more at home on an X to the Z LP. The chorus once again stinks. I can’t believe they did such a bad job on the LP chorus-wise. J-Ro’s verse is on fire this time, as Tha Liks rep Cali here. Xzibit however, is strictly doing chorus duty and some ish talking at the end, to my dismay. I’m not up to date on my west coast slang, but is 151 the area code for a section of California?

The LP finishes off with ‘Promote Violins’, featuring Kurupt, erstwhile member of the DPG. What stands out most on this track is the electric violin chords used, and the absolutely crazy sounding violin loop used during the verses. It really sounds like someone drunk was stringing everything here. It’s got a heavy metal vibe, and truthfully, it sounds awesome. I’m not feeling Kurupts rambling verse here, but Tash and J-Ro more than make up for it here. Probably the best overall cut on the LP, complete-song-wise, and I hope they drop a single for this, because I’d like the instrumental.

So when it’s all said and done, what’s the story? Well, this isn’t a bad album by any means. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t approach the greatness of Tha Liks’ other albums either. Apart from a couple of songs, nothing REALLY stands out, and while the beats are magnificent in majority, something just feels askew here. I hate to be so vague, but it’s just the way I feel. Newer heads who haven’t experienced Tha Liks before will love this, while people who’ve been along for their entire career will know what I’m talking about.

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