Album: Behold A King
Label: Parana Records
Rating: 7 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Take a look at the album cover. Go on – look at it. Does it say “hardcore Hiphop” to you? Nah, me neither. When I looked at the cover of the album and the title, I was expecting something influenced by the occult. Thankfully, that old reviewer’s theory of never judging an album by its cover raised its head again, as the music on here is a far cry from the somewhat disturbing images that the cover throws up.
Ya see, this IS hardcore Hiphop. Hartford, CT resident Tunsi has dropped a gem of an album which had me comparing his rhyme style with Slick Rick and Rakim, while his top notch production skills seem to show influences from Dre, the Beatnuts and Primo amongst others. Yup, it really IS that good.
From the very first cut, (the title track), I was hooked. Tunsi flows effortlessly over a drum loop that sounds like its been lifted straight from ‘Shook Ones’. The chorus is a bit bland with its constant chant of ‘The King’, but overall its a nice way to start the album.
The next track is the one that had me doing an audio double-take – ‘Strategy’ is a mid-tempo thumper featuring an almost middle-eastern styled guitar loop echoing over the beat. The big thing on here was how much Tunsi’s style of emceeing draws comparisons with vintage Rakim. Maybe he’s even aware of it himself, as he drops an “I aint no joke” line in the mix too.
When listening to the album, it quickly becomes clear that Tunsi has a particular style of production on lock. Most of the tracks feature dark brooding basslines, with a sprinkling of ominous pianos and horns. This has its obvious cons… although when the beats are are as hot as this, and the emceeing is as competent as Tunsi brings it, its a little easier to overlook the fact that a few of the tracks are a little similar to each other.
As the album progressed, I was impressed by the uptempo beats and haunting vocal hook on ‘What Have I Got’, and the creepy string-heavy ‘Bionic Man’. ‘Flight 615’ features Tunsi in story telling mode, dropping a tale of secret agents, guns, bomb deliveries and all that other James Bond type stuff.
Standout cuts? Well a couple really jumped out at me, mainly due to the high standards of the production. The smooth ass jazz loop on ‘Rock Massive’ compliments a snappy kick / snare combo that had me nodding my head. Again Tunsi flows lovely on this, showing that mid-tempo tracks are the ones he seems to feel most comfortable blessing. ‘Strong’ features a beautiful muted trumpet loop in the background, as Tunsi spits over a watery beat.
There are a few letdowns too though – ‘Nigga’s Ain’t Knowin’ is almost TOO clean in its production, leading to an artificial fell to the track. ‘Can’t Stop Hip Hop’ features a terrible vocal sample from what sounds like one of those barber shop quartets. The minimal beat doesn’t distract attention away from it either, leading to difficultly in actually hearing what Tunsi is saying.
Overall though this is a solid effort. Tunsi seems to be one of the gifted, like J-Zone and Celph Titled, who can hold down the mic and the production side of things with equal skill, and it would be a shame not to give him a chance to impress. You should pick this up if you can find it.