Review Summary: CunninLynguists kick off the journey brilliantly with the trademark killer beats creating the best hip-hop album of 2009.
"As long as at the end of the journey, man, we end up with a lot of naked girls, a lot of marijuana to smoke and a lot of great stories, you know what I mean..."
This is dangerous. A vague concept spanning two full length discs both being released in 2009, jam-packed with a mismatch of live tracks, spoken word interludes, remixes and enough guest appearances by underground hip hop artists to qualify them as a charity. It’s the ‘Strange Journey’! Instead of producing a single LP for 2009, CunninLynguists have released two albums of adventure-based hip-hop for their loyal fanbase. ‘The Journey’ is a roadtrip of epic proportions through America’s South, presenting terrific results from an ever-consistent group.
As the journey begins we are shown the centrepiece to the concept: An old beat-up van. The trio, consisting of MC's Deacon the Villain and Natti, and producer Kno, take the vehicle for a spin and discover they grow fond of the van despite its tendency of failing on them. This results in the recording of the first of the albums, "Strange Journey Volume One". This B-side laden offering has embarrassingly bobbed its way to the top to rival the greatest of 2009 and is one of the best of the CunninLynguists’ career. It is a wonderful addition to their impressive discography and has fortified their claim as underground southern hip-hop triumphs.
‘Volume One’ is an uncanny kind of achievement. Similarly to CunninLynguists’ other top-tier releases, the production is stellar and beats are memorable and comfortably unconventional creating an awkward yet forceful backdrop to the rhymes. The southern hip-hop sound perfected on previous releases, 'A Piece of Strange' and 'Dirty Acres', is repeated with fine results. From the custom old school beats to the soft tones of wind pipes and other esoteric genre mixers such as soul, folk and classical, Kno has created an impressive collection of beats. This is often used in the 'Lynguists sound, with such memorable moments as the downbeat beautiful tones of 'Piece of Strange' surfacing in this release yet it still manages to retain the bold approach on other tracks used in their earliest releases. Fans of the genre are often surprised by the power and perfection of DJ Kno's production, and 'The Strange Journey' albums do not let down in this respect.
Emcees, Deacon the Villain and newer member, Natti, provide great lines that are not always lyrically profound but are delivered distinguishably and nicely complement the beats. This is exemplified in the slurred way the line "Too much pot in the brownie pan, got me baked faster than the brownies, man" is delivered in single, Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)
. There are tracks that seem corny at first but grow on you rapidly like love song, Hypnotized
with such charmingly cheezy lines as "She said her name was Gwendlyn, the only reason I remembered it is 'cause it rhymes with 'pendulum', man, that's the way her hips were swinging". Other tracks are pure killer like Nothing But Strangeness
, Spark My Soul
, Dance For Me
, with the latter including a terrific line: "Overcame, n*gger slain, layin' on the reef, from belly of the mother to the belly of the beast".
But it's the remixes that really stand out. Both Georgia
have been given different rhymes creating a stronger and more powerful effect than the original clips. Both these tracks have increased in emotion from the original through a more effective lyrical base. The former with its soulful tirade of anti-confederate and post-Luther themes ("I hail from the state when the dreamer dreamed a dream, forty years later, coca-cola is king, and I’m not referring to a damn soft drink") and the latter's nostalgic recount of impoverished neighbourhood life ("Welcome to the jungle, where people don't come to, dreams don't come through, so every n*gger hustle"). Both tracks are powerful and memorable containing great lines such as "So glad got your soul, got your eyes on your p's and q's, 'cause in the cotton fields, boy you snooze then you lose" and "so we ride with the check-engine lights on, thats the reason we're misunderstood, there ain't no stimulus plan about to make it to my neighbourhood. They say that, the truth crushed to the earth will rise again, true indeed, but I’d rather plant seeds with wiser men..."
The strongest cut is also a pivotal moment in the journey as the van breaks down and the gang feels dejected and pissed off. Luckily the anger was captured in this three verse rhyme entitled Broken Van
, built on an old Leon Russell song with repetitive beats alluding to the time wasted waiting in the cold. They trio reminisce of their adventures with the van ("But I still look for girls with pipes just like her, junk in the trunk and headlights just like her") and provide wonderful flowing rhymes such as the smile-cracking second verse: "One touch is a clutch, I had to keep stickin’, then my feelings died out, the spark is just missing, this bitch won't put it in park and just listen" The album finishes with an outro which is picked up on ‘Strange Journey Volume Two’…
Cunninlynguists’ “Strange Journey Volume One” is out 24th March, 2009 via QN5 Music
Note: The review for the other half of the journey can be found here: