Artist: C-Rayz WalzTitle: Year of the BeastRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Chris Yuscavage
C-Rayz Walz has got it made literally. With an upcoming appearance on MTVs social rags-to-riches endeavor Made (playing the role of mentor to an emcee hopeful), the Definitive Jux and Stronghold Crew member has created enough buzz with last years We Live The Black Samurai EP to mark himself as one of the Hip-hop games most talented wordsmiths. With his tightwad flow over the rock-out production efforts throughout his Black Samurai follow-up Year of the Beast (Def Jux), C-Rayz continues his lyrical tirade on wax with enough heat and vocabulary to sustain an album absent of much else, at times.
Waiting little time to show off his knack for mastering the English language, Beasts boom-bap production on FirstWordsWorse showcases C-Rayz at his best with top-notch plays on words like, While Im on the toilet with an L, my shit is smokin, and Digi-download, Soundscan exams, top 10 choice/Want to speak out, my label keeps getting my invoice. Spitting an ode to ignorance, Aesop Rocks kaleidoscope of musical elements and a cheesy but effective sped-up sample create Knowledge, one of the first half of Beasts only real topical contributions.
Irony strikes on Paradise, with C-Rayz hustling his way through the quickening El-P production, playing out as Hip-hops very own version of R.E.M.s Its the End of the World complete with enough conspiracies with sarcastic undertone to match from the partnering Jukies. The Angel and The Preacher join up with C-Rayz for the black-and-white Blackout, a tale of wishing to be another race and one of the years most clever concepts on a Hip-hop record thus far. M-1 (of dead prez) stops by for the subsequent effort, Blacksoap, which ensures that the issue of race is not dismissed entirely by Blackout.
Still, outside of a graceful vocal performance from Jean Grae on the studio thug and tough guy-bashing Pink, much of the rest of Beast is looped-up with a series of wordy exploits from Walz, which only command attention for days, not that Year hes looking for.. StreetReppin displays the street swagger of C-Rayz and guest Vordul Mega but fails to capture the same interest as the duos last collaboration on Megas Spitmatic, and MusicTakeovah sounds anything but with an oddball effort by Walz to integrate guest Pudges Jamaican rambling into the hook. C-Rayz beasts enough lyrics to be considered a professional with the wordplay and worthy of at least a listen, but the Year of the Beast still comes up a few months short.