Artist: Tunnel Rats
Album: Tunnel Vision
Label: Uprok Records
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Tunnel Rats is a super crew of sorts – made up of several different underground groups (New Breed, LPG) and solo artists (Dert, Sev Statik, Zane, Raphi). Their “Tunnel Vision” release on Seattle, Washington based Uprok Records is a chance for the various heads who make up the group to display their skills.
Reading through the press release that came with this album, I was kinda apprehensive about reviewing this. Why? Because of the following sentence – “They creatively but directly challenge listeners to get serious in their walks with Christ.”
Yep you read that right. “Christian rap”? Now we all know that despite every Hiphop artist in the universe thanking the Big Guy in their album liner notes, Hiphop music and culture is not something that could be seen as promoting wholesome living! Add to this the fact that the fickleness of fans has ensured that cats coming out and being upfront about their faith, could maybe be viewed as “soft”, and you got a whole mess of reasons why despite the best efforts of Reverend Run and hundreds (if not thousands) of underground Christian groups, Eminem etc aren’t gonna be picking up bibles any time soon. (You never know, however – my man Adrunk found a release by Too Bizzy MC to be fairly strong, and it carried a similar message.)
OK – re-reading what I’ve just written above, it looks like I’m automatically down on this before I start. Thats not the case – every release on this site gets a fair and unbiased review. I’m just trying to let y’all in on my personal mindstate, and how I view this particular genre of Hiphop, before I begin.
Rant over… lets proceed.
First off – the beats on here are off the hook. Unfortunately the liner notes I have don’t give out the production credits, but whoever handled the beats on here, gets major daps. The opening cut ‘A Long Road’ is almost Wu-esque in nature, and sets the scene for what is to come – Hot beats, and some competent, confident emceeing.
Its always difficult, especially with underground artists, not to make comparisons to established acts. However I feel that this method is sometimes a good way of letting the listeners know what kind of music they’re gonna get their hands on if they pick this up. Thus for ‘Bow Down’ picture Jay Dee (Slum Village) production – laidback with a bump. For ‘2 Cents’ vision the same live instumentation feel that the Roots bring to the table. And for ‘Line Finish’ Dert’s production is similar to classic Primo, with emceeing reminscient of tha Alkaholiks.
Other standout cuts include ‘For The Heads’ which sounds almost like a hyrid version of The Happy Monday’s ‘Step On’, where reviewers (like me!), ignorant heads, and sellouts all come under attack; the bouncy ‘One’s Who Don’t’; and the laidback smoothness of ‘Change’
In short – the majority of this album is dope. Totally different to what I had expected. TOTALLY.
Things worth noting.
#1 Female emcees who aint using sex as a crutch to disguise wack mic skills. Zane and Elsie confidently hold their own on all the tracks they bless, even at times outshining their male counterparts. Elsie’s verse on ‘Line Finish’for example is blazing…
“Gimme a mic and a track, lets make up for these wack
Emcees, making tracks on their MPC’s,
Down to tape, this is your great escape,
Into the world of real music, Tunnel Rats exclusive,
For those who are sick of the game, don’t want the same ol’ thing,
We hitting straight to the brain, TR can never be tamed,
Making our claim, running tracks thru every grain,
Of this earth…”
#2 The thing I was most apprehensive about – it just doesn’t happen. THERE ARE NO TRACKS ON HERE WHERE YOU FEEL YOU ARE BEING PREACHED TO. Got it? Music is for enjoyment. It can also be uplifting, and impart knowledge. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Fortunately the Tunnel Rats must be able to read my mind, cos at no time did I feel that this was a church sermon. They DO have messages in their music, but its because of the hot beats and style of emceeing that I WAS able to pick up and take on board the references they make.
Conclusion: This is banging – straight up. There’s a small section of songs in the middle where it kinda loses it way a little, but it does pick up again quickly, and overall you’ll be getting more that your money’s worth by picking this up.