Review Summary: The lies, the shame, the truth, the hurt, the music, the soul, it's all in the dirt.
Not counting the “Strange Journey” mix tapes, CunninLynguists’ 4th studio release, “Dirty Acres,” is almost unfairly bookended by two monstrous albums, rendering its existence nearly forgettable. “A Piece of Strange” dropped a year prior, and the incredible depth and epic scope of that album overshadows the majority of their discography, let alone a great deal of Hip Hop in general. “Oneirology” officially drops next week, and the record’s massive atmospheric soundscapes mirror a colossal event, even if the general public will continue to ignore Hip Hop that doesn’t come with a backpack. These monoliths are notable achievements for CunninLynguists, but it would be unfair to ignore the stepchild in the middle of their two best works. “Dirty Acres” is not their best effort, yet is measurably solid and the chill-tastic serenity of its multiple layers prescribe more than essential listening, it demands respect for a group that is exceptionally consistent.
“Dirty Acres” is not a concept album like its bookending brothers. There are no loosely based treatises on the fleeting concepts of personal morality vs. the struggle of everyday life, or how the scope of dreams supersedes our subconscious and mirrors life at an aesthetic level. If “Dirty Acres” has a concept at all, it’s totally embroiled with the word “chill.” Kno and Deacon the Villian have embraced maturity ever since being “thugged out since cub-scouts” and f*ckin with just about everybody on their debut “Will Rap For Food.” That level of maturity grew at an exponential rate on “A Piece of Strange,” and “Dirty Acres” does not rival its predecessor in terms of transcending depth in Hip Hop. While “A Piece of Strange” and “Oneirology” might send a listener into an overpowering contemplative mode, “Dirty Acres” screams for one to just grab a beer, head to the park, and chill for the day. One could argue that the lack of any distinguishable fire is a weakness, but “Dirty Acres” is tightly executed, pulling off its intentions with ease.
The flow of “Dirty Acres” is much smoother than their other works, most notably because they are not constantly changing between sky-high atmospherics and more traditional bangin’ Hip-Hop fare. This entire exercise is subdued without being morose, rendering itself as relaxing Hip Hop with brains. Kno’s focus behind the boards is primarily acoustic guitars and subdued, gliding synths, and the subject matter is more about the state of Hip-Hop than some advanced intellectual concept. Cuts like “Valley of Death,” “Georgia,” “Gun,” and “K.K.K.Y” address relevant social issues, but their serious subject matter is belied by the relaxing flow of the beats. The album’s greatest moments however are ironically fashioned by the less challenging efforts. “Wonderful” is a standout, with Devin the Dude stopping by to drop the cleanest sex rap he’s ever conceived, effortlessly trading with Deacon on a ride that sounds like LL Cool J when he had a semblance of a clue on how to produce adequate Hip Hop. “Yellow Lines” is about p*ssy, yet surprisingly intellectual. It’s definitely about hoes, but it’s a lot more subtle than what we are used to and a refreshing change of pace. “Mexico” is the closer, and is a perfect summation for the album’s flow, an effortless, relaxing jam that rides comfortably in its own subtlety.
The story on “Dirty Acres” is it will never be a borderline masterpiece like their top two albums, but it proves that CunninLynguists, and in particular Kno, have come a long way since trying to combine the sophomoric platitudes of early Eminem and the more melodic overtones of Goodie Mob like they did at their inception. “Dirty Acres” is a mature record, yet there is no challenge in enjoying it. The intended goal is quite obviously the opposite, transcribing a strong sense of effortlessness. Not every redeeming aspect of CunninLynguists is on display on “Dirty Acres,” but it’s easy, gliding atmosphere stamps the notion they are one of the more consistent groups in Hip-Hop.