Artist: Underground Rise
Album: Sunrise / Sunset
Label: Uprok Records
Rating: 8 / 10
Uprok records come forth with another release raising the underground with an army of Christian emcees. A to the L passed off a comment to me as he was handing me the task of reviewing this album. He said, “You know these guys are Christian rappers but you just can’t hate on them because of it.” So right. These cats are just as hot (in some cases hotter) with the lyrics and beats as anyone else you will come across.
So, we are treated here to 19 tracks that were mostly recorded over one weekend. If you were thinking that the quality couldn’t be good because of that then you are going to be proven wrong when the spoken word intro by Jamie (wife of New Breed’s Macho) starts. This is a foreshadowing of the lyrical talent that is too come.
The wife leads and the husband follows on the first track of the album, ‘How We Get Down’. Propaganda, Reconcile, Griffin, Elsie and Sev Statik accompany Macho here. Already the head starts to move when the drums begin to kick backed by a chopped sample. This is truly a compilation album as the tracks are an assortment of artist combination from different groups. ‘You Don’t Want That’ features manCHILD of Mars ILL, Playdough of Ill Harmonics and Jurny Big of LPG. The beat here is interesting and a bit different but works well and these cats rock it well. We are treated to a little southern funk on ‘Southern Brutality’. You can’t help but feel the music due to that easy laid back feel and that guitar. Tunnel Rats and Mass Reality members team up here and bombard you with back and forth verses that range from fast to slow tempos.
Experimental production seems to be the forte of Underground Rise. ‘Kick Kick’ brings a beat that is just begging for a bassline that never comes. I guess the when you have an idea for a song entitled ‘Kick Kick’ that’s what you get, a kick leading the way. Bass returns on one of the dopest beats of the album. ‘Devil’s Advocate’ is a short track that lets us in on a man getting schooled by The Almighty Himself. There are some nice lyrics here and actually one of the nicer joints. The lyrics keep coming strong on ‘Concentrated’ and actually are what pulls you in. The beat is different and has an appeal but it’s the lyrics that make you feel the beat more. Interesting metaphors like, “We got a sticky situation see, you’re the gum in the beautiful hair of Hip Hop, and I’m the crunchy peanut butter comb causing lips to lock” and the hook “It’s your heart that gets these, people to listen. It’s the words you say that, mold’s the vision. It’s the road you choose and the thoughts you thought you could think with no cost for the cause of it all” that brings this song together. Infectious hooks aren’t ‘Lost’ on “Sunrise / Sunset” and assure solid songs not just mental lyrics over beats.
What kind of Hip Hop album would it be without a song about ‘Real Money’? This kind of money isn’t the flashy “platinum chain rent money” this money is about controlling your own career. This is a business and life lesson, pay attention. “That’s real money, hundred million in my will money / ride 20 inch but take the bus when I feel money“. It apparently takes “The knack” to understand that and it’s displayed ten tracks in. The only issue with this track is the background sound on the beat. The foreground beat is nice but that background is a bit distracting.
About somewhere near the middle rung is ‘Ladders’ climbing forth upon a heavy synth dominated beat. This fades out into our first and only interlude – a minute and 9 second long accapella set of two emcees.
You think your crew knows how to do a compilation track huh. Underground Rise laughs at your compilation track of five or six heads with it’s own gumbo track that features seventeen emcees entitled ‘One Voice’ that displays the unity that their crews share. Man the booth had to be mad crowded. The oxygen depleted sound booth cut results in track fourteen ‘Suffocation’. This beat is very similar to ‘You Don’t Want That’, and its not surprising to find that Dert was behind the boards for both joints. This cut is a little hard to feel as much as the others with it’s “deep in the bowels of a chamber” vibe.
‘Mission Pen Possible’ raises an image of a drummer just worn out by the time it’s finished. A hook is replaced by militant style sound bytes of someone relaying the mission to Hip Hop soldiers. It seems that mission begins in ‘Cyphers’ which better than being the title of the next track, could have been a fitting name for this compilation. This album is a true mix of emcees through and through. Among those mic fiends the Tunnel Rats seem to have the most appearences and keep ‘Doing Life’. I’m not complaining, this beat is a bit sweet.
With all these crews, emcees, and tracks done during this one weekend this has turned out to be a session to remember. I would have loved to have been burrowed in the Rat Hole (the Tunnel Rats studio) during this whole session. ‘Remember This Day’ rounds out the album and displays what must have been the vibe that took place last summer. This tracks pulls together the emcees you’ve heard throughout for a spit session; first over bouncing beats for verses then over a beat box in what seems like partly an off the dome session. Jamie sets the sun in the same manner in which she made it arise with a spoken word outro outlaying the fact that the “underground rise has risen”.
This album is too accessible to be just termed a Christian Hip Hop record. It’s Hip Hop period. Creative beats, dope lyrics and a unified team consisting of a congregation of crews make for a worth the time listen.