Review Summary: Hailing from D.C., rappers X.O. and YU rap real talk while producer Oddisee composes a perfect soundtrack. Intelligent, interesting and important.
Every once in a while, when the stars are aligned and the time is right, a stellar hip-hop collective comes around and drops an undeniable gem. This is one of those gems.
Actually, it's more like a meteor from a hip-hop parallel universe where all the beats are stereo candy, the lyrics are positive and uplifting and the crew consists of distinct individuals bringing their true personality into their flows. X.O. isn't lying when he says "We like the '93 version of De La" in 'Back To Basics'. The link isn't apparent at first, and almost seems inappropriate, but X.O., YU and Oddisee have put together a borderline-classic much in the same vein as De La Soul
's Buhloone Mindstate.
The beats are almost all produced by the up-and-coming Oddisee, who also drops verses on almost every track. The beats are musical and thought-provoking, encouraging the listener to stay surrounded by the music with the lyrics up and front. Though almost all of the beats are sonically pleasing, the stand outs are definitely 'Streets Won't Let Me Chill', 'Get In Line', 'In The Ruff', 'The First Time', and 'Let Me Explain' with 'The First Time' being produced by SlimKat78 (who also dropped a couple for Finale
Now to the lyrics. For 2009, I think these might have been the realest phrases uttered by any rapper that year. X.O. says in 'Let Me Explain':
'I'm on that red-eye flight
Overnight to get them years, baby
Bet i, said I'm not a fashionisto but I'm on that
I like nice sneakers
Admiring the bone structure of a woman with nice features
Ain't tryin to book her
Just to compliment to let her know that she's a looker
I'm on that, man. breakfast in london, lunches in berlin
I travel so much, ya know it all becomes redundant
Now i'm back in Merlin, I'm on my east coast grind
the beats is in the dungeon
Speech is like a function, a sermon
determined to reach the masses like catholic's with ashes
In hopes that they punchin, clockin
get up on the topic of discussion like gossip, nothing
the beat is more important than the piece that i'm recalling
let you know just what i'm on when youre peepin my recording'
Rappers that can actually convey exactly how they feel come a dime in a dozen, and in that way X.O. is very reminiscent of Posdnous of De La Soul. He can tell you precisely what's on his mind.
Start to finish, In The Ruff is a shining diamond. Oddisee has proved that he is here to stay and will most definitely change the game. X.O. and YU (and Oddisee) spit pure D.C. poetry over important beats. Their voices help make the delivery perfect, both of them gravelly and alluring; you'll be lingering at every word.