Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Believe it or not, the alt.rap newsgroup has had its fair share of famous and infamous contributors in its time. Peril-L of the Mountain Brothers is an alt.rap “graduate”, and Count Bass D has also spent time contributing to this newsgroup, and its rec.music.hip-hop relative. D-Nice (from BDP) made a few postings, and of course the American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh should not be forgotten either, as he was also a regular for a while. One by one though, contributors begin to move on, some progressing to bigger and better things, most fading back into the obscurity of normal everyday life. What always remains though, is the feeling of “community”. For 5 or 10 minutes every day, its chill to be able to leave normality behind, and join with other kindred spirits in dissing albums, hollering at peoples’ mommas, and talking mucho shitto.
It’s cool then, to see people who you’ve chatted with almost every day, doing well. Timid already had a nice little track record when he arrived on alt.rap – a resident of Florida, via Hawaii, he’d already been through the local deejaying circuit in Honolulu before hooking up with an emcee called Solo (out of Virginia). They went on to set up Third Visional Entertainment, before circumstances found Timid in Florida, and his partner in Tokyo. Fast forward to the present day, to find Timid producing tracks for another local emcee, Fayce, and designing websites. Oh, and tracking sales of an instrumental meditational cd he hooked up for use by martial arts heads. And so it came to pass, that the man known as Jaylon Carter brought forth a solo album called “Intimidation”, and he knew that it was good. The only question was – did A to the L?
The album kicks off with a short little intro track, which although consisting of a fairly bland beat, is saved by the inclusion of a soulful vocal chorus – all very Nate Dogg-ish. Timid spits a short little verse, coming off raw, before giving way to a shout from Tha Liks’ Tash.
Its on the first “real” cut, ‘Bars On The Battlefield’ that Timid’s shows that his ability as an emcee does not take a backseat to his production skills. This time around though, its Kay Records’ Killah who handles the work on the boards to produce a dark uptempo track, which features oriental keys stabbing in and out of the mix. The duo actually mesh incredibly well together, trading verses with ease as Timid’s hyperactive flow is urged on by Killah’s lazy New York drawl. Nice work fellas.
Next up is ‘All About The Rhyme’, which some of you may already be familiar with due to its appearance on the Altrap “Battle Mode” LP. Like the previous cut, this is another joint which relies on an ominous bassline sprinkled with oriental-flavoured strings. Once again, Timid shows an amazing ease on the mic, floating over the track effortlessly – although I’m still not feeling the style on the chorus. It just sounds a little too hurrying-to-fit-all-the-words-in on beat for me.
The next couple of tracks again serve to illustrate Timid’s skills as a producer. Where the previous tracks provided a dark, broody feel, ‘I Ain’t Got Nothin’ is distinctly Wu Tang-esque, while ‘Life’s Way’ instantly throws up a comparison with Outkast. ‘I Ain’t Got Nothin’ features a hard edged snare with one of those catchy speeded up samples that RZA has made his name on (think ‘For Heavenz Sake’ on “Wu Tang Forever”). The lyrics are a world away from the normal bullshit that’s ruling the airwaves nowadays – personal, heartfelt , spiritual in places, it’s a nice little peek inside Timid’s pysche. ‘Life’s Way’ is dominated by an off-key / on-key sing song chorus by Soul (and Timid on the backup) and a rubbery bassline that would be right at home on “Stankonia”. The only minor letdown here is Timid’s delivery on the track – its a little monotone throughout, and although this might be a deliberate attempt to deadpan on some serious issues, it comes off as a little uninterested.
Thankfully Timid’s hunger seems to pick up on ‘The World Is A Ghetto’, which samples the War cut of the same name. Like the original its a comment on social conditions, world politics, and government policies – the difference is that this sizzling, horn-fueled rock/soul synthesis features Timid spitting over the top. Dope.
The album continues with the laidback feel of ‘A Little Music’ – a jazzy loop combining with the vocals of Nasia on the hook (who sounds a lot like Amel Larrieux) as Timid again kicks the knowledge. The track listing here is important, as the hard edged funk of the War-sampling cut that went before, gives way to the feelgood vibe of jazz. Why? Well, consider ‘A Little Music’ a perfect little preparation for the next cut – the best on the album.
‘My Soul’ has it all. A catchy flute loop. A rootsy chorus. An emcee with something to say. It all combines on here to provide a superb highpoint on the album. KJ’s soulful chorus works perfectly over the addictive loop, while Timid’s experiment with monotone delivery, which didn’t quite come off on ‘Life’s Way’, is a resounding success here. The whole thing captures a late-night-at-the-jazz-club feel and throws it onto wax so magnificently that its really quite difficult to capture the essence of the track here – this is one you really need to check out first hand.
The last portion of the album rounds things off quite strongly. If Timid was ever aiming for radio play, then ‘Make No Mistake’ is an obvious choice as a “radio-friendly” single. Its a bouncy little number that could easily slip onto a few funk mixtapes, although its dominated a little by the female vocals on the hook. ‘My Apology’ is a bit of a letdown, despite it’s deeply personal lyrics. Its mournful tone is a feature of not just the lyrics, but the backing track too – an orchestral cut that comes off a little too on-beat/off-beat. Its a shame really because on this cut, Timid really bares his soul – its just that the beat becomes more of a distraction from, than a compliment to the words. ‘Understand The Concept’, with its acoustic feel, has a real Fugees-in-their-prime vibe to it – not necessarily a bad thing though. Rounding off the album is ‘The Lineup’ – a posse cut which has Timid teaming up with his homies Fayce and Ty Steez and alt.rap heads Redeem, Pizon and Killa. Its a pretty rugged way to finish things up, and despite the barbs thrown by Fayce and Pizon in this direction (duck Dave), I gotta give this props as it turned out tight.
And so the verdict for another of the alt.rap fam making the step to album status? Grab it. The variation in beats, the range of influences, and the fact that the vast majority of tracks turn out perfectly are testament to his production skills. Back this up with his obvious skills on the mic, and you’ll find that you won’t be disappointed if you pick this up. What are you waiting for?