Smiff N Wess: Reloaded

Artist: Tek & SteeleTitle: Smiff N Wess: ReloadedRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Orisanmi Burton

After a seven-year break from making albums as a group Tek & Steele (aka Smif-N-Wessun, Cocoa Brovaz) returns with Smiff N Wess: Reloaded (Duck Down). Known once again under their original moniker group members Tek and Steele take aim at reconnecting with their anticipating audience. After making their debut on Black Moon’s 1993 classic introduction Enta Da Stage, they carried the flag and released Dah Shinin’ a year later. Unfortunately New York Hip-Hop was at full blast during this time period so despite the modest success of lead single “Bucktown”, Dah Shinin’ was commercially eclipsed by heavyweight debuts from the likes of Nas, Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan. Despite its lukewarm numbers the album made headway for subsequent Boot Camp affiliates like Heltah Skeltah and OGC. The crew’s collective contributions and their constant collaboration helped to cement them as one of the best Hip-Hop posses of all time. With Reloaded, two Boot Camp generals show and prove that they still hold heat.

This release marks the end of Duck Down Records’ Triple Threat summer, which also promoted new material from Sean Price and a collaboration from Black Moon’s Buckshot and Little Brother’s 9th Wonder. The title song on Reloaded kicks off the15-track album with force. They duo conjure street imagery over dark, bass-heavy beats from producers like Da Beatminerz, Roc Raida (Xecutioners), Krysis (Justus League) and Coptic. On “Gunn Rapp” they recite the hook (“In the hood, they love that / To the hoods, we give back / Nigga this ain’t no comeback / we never left where we live at!“). “War” displays Tek and Steele at the top of their game. With military chants echoing in the backround they evenly lay down some of their best lyrics to date. Steele initiates the tirade with, “I’ve been patiently waiting / for the appropriate moment / to expose what I’m holding / The realest sh*t ever quoted.” Their chemistry on wax is as sharp as ever and guest spots from Buckshot, a reunited Heltah Skeltah, dead prez and Talib Kweli all add to the artillery.

While Reloaded is a solid album, and a welcome addition to the Boot Camp catalogue it will fail to capture the legendary status of their slept-on debut. Its major shortcoming is that it does not exceed expectations. Neither lyrically nor musically have they experimented at all with their sound. Fans of their previous work will be satisfied, but not blown away. Fortunately for Smif-N-Wessun, a mediocre effort from them is still better than the majority of contemporary Hip-Hop hitting stores today.

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