REVIEW: Smif-N-Wessun – Still Shinin’

Still Shinin'

Artist: Smif-N-Wessun

Album: Still Shinin’ (Advance)

Label: Duck Down / Rawkus

Rating: 4 / 10

Reviewer: DJ MF

Cocoa Brovaz, Smif-N-Wesson, Tek & Steele. So many different names. And as “Still Shinin” would attest to, so many different sounds. Back in the day, Smif-N-Wesson dropped “Dah Shinin”, to many an improvement on the the already classic Beatminerz sound found on Black Moon’s “Enta Da Stage”.

Legal drama forced a name change to the Cocoa Brovaz soon after, which then led to the release of the duo’s second LP, the disappointing “Rude Awakening”. The years seemed to have mellowed out Tek and Steele, leading to a pretty soft album, saved only by the handful of harder tracks. A couple of years in limbo followed, what with label drama and the collapse of the BCC as a unit of worth. Tek and Steele resurfaced a couple of years ago with the gimmicky ‘Super Brooklyn’, but since then have been mostly quiet.

So they’re back once again, this time having built enough of a buzz that Rawkus Records scooped them up late last year after the semi-success of ‘Get Up’ from the “Lyricist Lounge 2” compilation. Back with their original name (for now, since the matter is in the courts), and back with the hopes of building on the positive steps taken with the BCC release “The Chosen Few”.

Unfortunately, the step taken forward with that album is followed by two steps back with this release. Granted, this is still a pre-release, but by and large the tracks on here are pretty much well set.

Things start off well enough mind you. The aggressiveness of ‘Get Off’ leads things off with Buckshot guesting, leading into the introspective ‘Autobiography’, where Tek and Steele go into their backgrounds. There’s even a ‘throwback’ track of sorts to the murky Beatminerz sound we all know and love – the snare driven, ‘Tools of the Trade’ which features one of the most beautiful vocal samples I’ve ever heard. There’s also a Pete Rock-produced track that sounds like a DJ Premier-produced track that really needs to be heard – featuring a pretty nifty little staccato synth stab sequence that makes up the backbone of the track, it’ll have you nodding your head.

Unfortunately, there’s little else of note. For the most part, “Still Shinin” suffers from some of the most cheap sounding production I’ve ever heard. ‘Smif-N-Wesson Is The Reason’ being the number one offender, with one of the cheesiest synth-lines ever committed to wax.

If it was JUST the cheapness that bugged me, perhaps I could have blamed it on the ‘pre-release’ status of “Still Shinin”. Unfortunately, that’s not the case either, as Smif-N-Wesson have moved further away from the sound that I thought they’d be bringing back with such recent releases as ‘Spit Again’ and ‘Extreme Situation’ – namely the reggae influenced hip hop that made them famous. Instead, we’re treated to glitzy production that doesn’t fit with the duo at all… with tracks like ‘La Familia’, ‘I Wanna Get High’ and ‘Glass’ being some of the biggest offenders.

One would hope that this being a pre-release, Smif-N-Wesson will go back and rework this, because it is definitely not the next logical step from the “The Chosen Few”. And given the precarious position that the Clik is in critically these days, that’s not a good thing.

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