The L.J.’s

Artist: Likwit JunkiesTitle: The L.J.’sRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Likwit crew member Defari and DJ Babu of the Dilated Peoples and the Beat Junkies are like cousins in L.A.’s massive Hip-hop family, but on The L.J.’s (ABB) they sound like inseparable brothers. Going by the Likwit Junkies, these two have an amount of chemistry that not many outside of their circle would have foreseen. Listening to this album, it becomes evident that Babu has been studying Defari’s steez long before they crossed paths. And Babu’s studies have paid off as he has cooked up a batch of highly satisfying soul and funk-driven beats that fit Defari’s sharp yet easygoing delivery to a T.

As a longstanding DJ and occasional beatmaker, Babu has always gotten props for his deftness behind the tables, but has not received nearly enough respect for his skills behind the boards. It’s impossible for anyone to ignore the potency of Babu’s production any longer, especially when you hear his super-soulful assembly of horns on the single “Keep Doin It” and the melodic roots reggae vibe of “6 in the Morning.” And Defari is not far behind. I can’t imagine many other MCs complimenting Babu’s sound so well. For example, on the aforementioned “Keep Doin It,” Defari rides the horns and hand claps like he was born to do it.

When it comes to subject matter, Defari displays much versatility. Nonetheless this Likwit rep often keeps things very L.A.-centric, which is a bit of a contradiction for the man who strives for expansion. But while he keeps things local, he manages to successfully use his hometown to tackle multiple topics. From going way back to Angelino roller rink jams (“Salute”) to painting a candid picture of his hood life (“Ghetto”) to providing a reality check to outsiders about how rowdy the City of Angles can get (“Dark Ends” with Rakka), Defari makes good lyrical use of his hometown. And as L.A. has seen its police force carry out some of the worst police brutality in our nation, it’s fitting that Defari joins forces with Krondon and Planet Asia to speak on the oft-questionable actions of the boys in blue. “A badge and a gun makes you a man huh?,” Defari asks bluntly on the chorus.

The few moments when Defari loses strength is when he tries to play Mr. Loverman (e.g. the corny “Dreamgirl”)—especially considering that his audience is predominately male. Ironically, while the topic of weed has been done-to-death, Defari sounds much better when serenading his Mary Jane on “The Good Green” over a lush Babu backdrop.

On this side project, the Likwit Junkies simply bring out the best of each other. Babu’s soulful ‘n’ easygoing production not only proves that he is a beatsmith to be reckoned with, but that he has provided Defari with beats as well-suited as any other producer has. And more often than not, Defari makes the good use of his lush backdrops. While this album is about L.A. “all day,” it’s undoubtedly a proper representation of what underground cats in the West can bring to the table of Hip-hop.

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