Artist: Czar*NokTitle: That One WayRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine
Sometimes all it takes is a catch-phrase to get glued on the map; for B.G., “Bling, Bling,” for Black Rob, “Whoa.” Czar*Nok certainly isn’t going to ensure Cincinatti’s exposure with their hit slang single, “Hercules.” However, the debut album from Hayczar and E-Nok, That One Way (Capitol/EMI) boasts accredited producers, and street-sinewy lyrics that the Queen City hasn’t heard since Anthony Munoz pregame. While the singles need some time, Czar*Nok’s contributions lie submerged in an album full of musical charm.
Hip-Hop’s best lyricists and writers rarely publish their lyrics. Czar*Nok, as rookies, took that unfortunate liberty. Neither Hayczar or E-Nok are profound with the pen. Songs such as “Table Dance” and “G-A-M-E” make this alarmingly clear. However, the duo excels in the ability to convey tone. “Throw Me That Pack,” though lacking substance, captures miniscule details of a drug transaction under extreme circumstances. The muttered chorus adds to the setting, and serves as one of the album’s more impressive cuts. “Pimpin’ and Gangsta” also shows the boys in a permed and jeweled light with flamboyant diction and emphasized deliveries. These qualities reveal that where Czar*Nok lacks in talent, they fill with admirable effort.
The production is the album’s strongest suit. Kanye West heads the guest department. His creation, “A Time To See” resonates as distinctly Kanye, but certainly doesn’t strike as anything more than a throw-away. El Da Sensei and Masta Ace producer, Koolade does impress with “Pimp Tight.” Organ-stabs and light hand-claps make this a low-key club contender. Kwame and Hypnotized Minds fill out for an impressive bill. The in-house producers, Suicide Kingz keep up with the outsourced work. “Pimpin’ and Gangsta” samples an oft overlooked section of “Superfly” rather uniquely. Meanwhile, “She Walked My Way” incorporates a Houston sound into the mix, while using the signature hi-hats of the album.
That One Way is a well-crafted album. The choruses sound natural and memorable, and the music brings a world of energy to Czar*Nok that any group wishes for. Clearly, lyrics aren’t terribly bright, while the concepts are a mud-puddle of sex and drug-lore. Though they lack the swagger of Slim Thug, they have achieved a similar ability to let good music put new spins on worn-out concepts. Neither the group, nor the album is truly “Hercules.” But Czar*Nok and this debut pack enough punch to gain access to headphones and dancefloors where ziplocks are found.