Artist: LA Symphony
Album: Call It What You Want
Label: Squint Entertainment
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
L.A. Symphony can draw some comparisons with Wu-Tang Clan. They both rap, and they both have a lot of members. After that though, the comparisons have to end. L.A. Symphony are on some laid back West Coast style shit. Don’t even think about throwing them into the G-Funk pigeonhole either. The styles shown on this LP are more reminiscent of groups like Black Sheep, and Black Eyed Peas.
The 9 members of the group – Pigeon John, Joey the Jerk, Sharlok Poems, J-Beits, Flynn, bTwice, CookBook, UNO Mas, and DJ J-Boogie, have banded together to put out “Call It Want You Want”. With production on the album handled by such Hiphop luminaries as Prince Paul, and Mario C (Beasties), and guests on the album such as Fatlip (ex-Pharcyde) and Black Eyed Peas, its clear that L.A. Symphony are going all out to make this album a success. Let see if they succeed…
A quick little spoken intro.
2) Broken Tape Decks
The first single, and instantly I’m struck by how dope this beat is. Funky and bouncy – I’m loving it. Emcee’s styles really do resemble Black Sheep (which aint no bad thing.) Laidback abstract flows compliment the beat – “If you’re bumping this is the kitchen just cook, if you’re watching us do it live listen and look.”
3) What You Say (feat. Fat Lip)
A total switch in styles. Beats have a harder edge here and the whole tempo is slowed down. Fatlip kind put his foot in it here, telling us how he got “2000 dollars to do this verse.” Well guys – you got ripped off. Fat Lip doesnt really display any standout rhymes here at all, and is outshone by Symphony members. A so-so track overall.
4) Champion Birdwatchers
This is a track you’ll either love of hate. I loved it AND hated it. The bassline seems to be sampled from some jazz / ragtime shit, and once the beat kicks in over the top, this track bangs. But once we reach the chorus I’m almost flicking to the next track. The chorus is done in the style of a ragtime song by one of the group (Pigeon John?) – uptempo and singsong. I’m just not feeling this at all… UNTIL a female verse does almost exactly the same chorus right after him, and it works perfectly. (Who is this lady?) She also drops a verse later and handles her mic task perfectly too. This is a grower… and a club track definitely.
5) Very Expensive
Another club track – I actually dropped this last weekend and the crowd lapped it up. An uptempo beat and more laid back flows, plus a simple but catchy chorus make this a classic. Oh, and the Black Sheep similarity must have been in these guys minds too – yeah, I did catch the ‘Strobelite Honey’ reference.
A quick excerpt of the next track being performed live. But seriously, these aren’t really needed.
7) San Diego
A nice cut. Are these the drums from Group Home’s ‘Supastar’? Anyways, all the emcees cut correct here, and the chorus is another abstract catchy classic – “With your little crew in your black Winnabago, Sippin’ on a soda with your cream cheese bagel, Its the type of music when you go to San Diego.”
8) Easy Now
Another bouncy (but short) track, with stabbing piano keys flying in an out of the mix. Again all the emcees featured fit in perfectly with the track. “Giving you my time, thats why I got no wife.” If only we were all that lucky…
A guitar lick echoes in and out of the mix as the beat drops. This is a kinda braggin’ track, and I’m feeling this in a big way. The chorus reminded me of Busta a little.
A phone interlude which was funny the first time I heard it, as it seemed to be building to a big conclusion, but then it just ends with no fireworks. A skipper from now on.
11) Celly Situation
A song about cell phones, over a “jingly” beat. Maybe a little bland… filler perhaps? Nothing much else to say on this. One thing I noticed was that they made reference to the fact that Jay-Dee was meant to hook up some beats for them and never returned their calls. L.A. Symphony would sound DOPE on a Jay-Dee beat.
12) Broken Now
I love this. Starts with a weird Egyptian type sample, then a slow plodding beat kicks in, and the emcees tell us the tale of their financial woes. “ATM is straight tapped, clearing samples is wack, album gets pushed back.” The whole vibe of the song is one that everyone can identify with because lets face it – we’re all either broke (like me) or have been at some point.
13) Anything (feat. Black Eyed Peas)
This SOUNDS like a Black Eyed Peas cut. A quick tempo with a repeated guitar lick – in my opinion this is maybe the most commercial cut on the album, and to be honest, I ain’t really feeling this very much.
A six second interlude – why do artists insist on putting these things in? Some day I’m gonna meet De La Soul… and kill them. They started all this on “3 Feet High and Rising”. Bastards.
A head nodder. “This beat be straight up and down like coat hangers.” Basically a chance for all the emcees to step up and show their skills. There’s no real theme or story for this track – its a (very dope) rhymefest from start to finish.
I’m loving the horns on this. A party track of sorts, as the Symphony bust some fun lyrics about women, parties, and clubs. Another winner.
A nice piano lead in, and a very laidback beat, with female vocals floating in and out in the background. A haunting female chorus too, reminiscent of Amel Larrieux. I like this a lot. This is a real grower. (Oh and my wife just walked in the room, and made me put this on again from the start – so it gets the “A to the L’s Wife Seal Of Approval” too.)
18) Call It What You Want
A heavy bassline and a thumping beat introduce the title track. Another head nodder. The emcees spit some nice lines here, as they tell us how their aim is to get into the Hiphop world and “penetrate and dominate like Shaq against 5’8.” This track really shows what LA Symphony are about – a group of ill emcees with varying styles and flows all able to throw down on a dope beat. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all we ask for on a Hiphop record?
This track kinda reminded me of Dilated Peoples for some reason. Some nice cuts on the chorus, but this is basically a bragging, boasting, “where we’re from, who we are” track that all artist have done at one time or another. Not bad at all though.
And so we reach the end… and I have to say that this is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. More or less solid throughout, with only a hint of filler tracks – you should make it your mission to pick this up when it drops. (One beef I have though, is that if you go to the L.A. Symphony website, some of the beats you can hear on the site are off the hook, but never appeared on the album. Why not!?)