The Blackout

Artist: MaspykeTitle: The BlackoutRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Brolin Winning

Representing Springfield Massachusetts (birthplace of basketball and Dr. Seuss), Maspyke have been putting in work for several years now, establishing a solid rep thanks to quality singles like “The Gong Show” and “54th Regiment,” among others. Comprised of DJ Roddy Rod on the beats with Hanif “H-Bomb” Jamiyl and Tableek sharing mic duties, they treat us to 18 tracks of smooth wordplay and low-key but impressive production on their official debut LP The Blackout.

The album gets off to a strong start, with a nice intro leading into “Far East,” a great joint laced with humming organ tones, unrelenting boom-baps, and a weird little vocal clip. The back-and-forth rhyme style works well, with both emcees flaunting ample skills and charisma. “Niggaz Trip” targets ignorant cats everywhere, set to a slick guitar loop, deep bassline, and sharp snare hits. Mega-smooth, filtered pianos come into play on “Lost In Belief,” a mellow but very catchy jam that discusses both Islam and lesbianism, punctuated with weepy string snippets and dust-encrusted kicks. Other key jams include the thumping “Transit – Rod’s Whip” and “All Things Fall,” which incorporates some choice bongos and chainsaw sound effects.

Throughout the record, both Hanif and Tableek come nice on the verbals, rapping about real issues while avoiding played-out gangster clichés and wack emcee bashing. However, it’s Roddy Rod’s production that really makes things happen, with his undeniable gift of making your neck bend to even the simplest of beats and a few sparse loops. He definitely has a dope signature sound, although some of the tracks lag a bit, and things get a bit too repetitive at times. Still, when it works it works wonders, as evidenced on the ridiculously chill, mostly instrumental title track.

Overall, The Blackout is an impressive debut from a crew we’ll definitely be hearing more from soon. There are a few skippable selections in the mix, but the niceness of the rest of the album easily makes up for it. While Boston artists have been getting more props over the past few years, players from The Field are still waiting to get heard. Maspyke may be just the team to put Western Mass on the rap map.

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