REVIEW: Roxbury Rituals

Roxbury Rituals

Artist: Various

Album: Roxbury Rituals

Label: Iceman Records

Rating: 7 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

If I ask you to name an emcee out of Roxbury, Boston, then chances are you’ll come up with Ed O.G. who tasted success with his Bulldog squad, in the early nineties, and blasted back into the spotlight with his solid solo effort last year. Anyone else? Nah? Well, indie label Iceman Records has put out this short compilation featuring some more of Roxbury’s finest emcees, so if this is any good, then the chances are that some of the artists on here could soon have some product on your shelf.

Production throughout is handled by Mr Sleep, the creative arm of production squad 2000 Degreez, and credit has to be given where its due – he’s laced these emcees with some dope and (very) varied beats. Consider the difference between the gritty feel of the opening track ‘Family Thang’ by Backdraft – a typically East coast sound that still sounds incredibly fresh, the oriental flavour of ‘ThirtyTwoDegreez’ by Versatile, and the vintage Mobb Deep influences felt on ‘The Hitman’ by Haran (does this sample Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’?). Three different styles of tracks, for three different styles of emcee, and yet Mr Sleep has managed to pull these off very well.

As for the emcees themselves? Well its a pretty mixed bag – while the subject matter being flipped isn’t original at all – guns, drugs, crews, hoods, crime – a few of these cats still manage to carve a name for themselves as being able to flip it in their own style. Backdraft comes off like a Funkmaster Flex with mic skills, and although generic in places, I could easily listen to an album by this cat. The dark sounds of ‘For That Cheddar’ are a perfect example of what this cat is about. Original subject matter? Nope? But still a hell of a lot better than some of the high profile cats spitting this kind of stuff. He deserves a chance to be heard. As does the strangely named Q. On his eerie cut ‘The Twister’ he displays the hunger that is so recognisable from listening to Kane or Big L’s first LP. I’ll be surprised if this guy doesn’t go on to major things. On this cut, he just destroys the microphone – it really needs to be heard. I mentioned Versatile’s cut ‘ThirtyTwoDegreez’ earlier – he’s another guy who’s going places – I swear his flow is reminiscient of Nas in his prime. Dope.

There are a few downsides though – its not all plain sailing. Sean Doe’s ‘Down N Dirty’ with its recognisable Jay-Z sample is probably the major let down on here – I wasn’t really feeling this emcee’s style at all. The other cut that did nothing for me was the repetitive ‘Black Mob Official’ by BGM. This just didn’t whole my interest.

The final cut is a massive collaboration featuring some of the emcees who contributed to the album. Its also the best cut on the whole thing. Sleep blesses all the emcees with a dope soundtrack to spit on, and everyone represents lovely… BUT there’s an uncredited female who appears on here who just owns the whole thing. Who is this lady, and why did she not get a cut of her own? Her style is dope!

Once again, another solid indie release, and one you should definitely try to hunt out. If this is representative of the skills in Roxbury then hopefully Ed O.G. will be getting some competition soon…

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