Artist: VirtuosoTitle: World War II: Evolution of the TorturerRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman
Politically aware MCs may never be satisfied with the government, but lets face it: the outcome of the 2004 election will leave mindful lyricists no choice but to get even more militant on the mic. Just look at how many Hip-Hop songs released in the past four years were fueled by dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. Enter Virtuoso, an MC who wasnt exactly known for being blatantly political while coming up in the Boston underground in the late-90s. Recently, though, things have changed. Virtuosos electrifying sophomore album, World War II: Evolution of the Torturer (Omnipotent/Raptivism Records), sees this alert lyricist pulling no punches in sharing his concerns about where our government is leading the world.
As the violin-laced beat of the single Fahrenheit 911 fades out, Virtuoso directly addresses the Bush administration as he ponders: You know, I dont want to believe these conspiracy theories, but you dont give us any reason to believe anything to the contrary. Virtuoso is no conspiracy nut, just a mindful man with his eyes and ears open.
Songs like the aforementioned Fahrenheit 911, the Akrobatik-assisted Military Intelligence and Two featuring Rise and Shine see Virtuoso and company eloquently share their perspectives on the broken promises of the President and how he lead us into a slaughter. Much like Capital Ds album Insomnia, WWII is obviously the result of doing much research on Virtuosos part. And like Capital Ds findings, Virtuosos are thankfully presented comprehensibly alongside some of the tightest production of the year. While nearly every cut on this album features a potent instrumental, the beat behind Military Intelligence is especially commanding. Driven by intense war drums and occasional blaring horns, this hard-hitting soundscape is the perfect backdrop for this combative number.
While much of this album deals directly with Americas involvement in Iraq, Virtuoso also avidly raps about personal issues such as losing innocence in a world of chaos (Devilish) and facing the reality of death (The Reaper). These earnest glimpses into Virtuosos psyche prove to be captivating throughout. This unyielding MC has certainly come a long way from his battle raps in the 90s.
With the exception of the overly aggressive, metaphorical cut Animal, this is an accessible effort for anyone discontent with the state of the world. Through WWII, Virtuoso joins the likes of Capital D, The Perceptionists, Immortal Technique and Sabac as MCs in 2004 who refuse to keep their governmental concerns contained. On his sophomore album Virtuoso doesnt take much time to catch his breath as he delivers 14 well-aimed shots of high-powered Hip-Hopfiller free at that. The election may be over, but WWII remains one of the most important albums of 2004.