Thug Matrix

Artist: TragedyTitle: Thug MatrixRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kye Stephenson

From his early years as part of the legendary Juice Crew, to his influence and guidance in the careers of such notable emcees as Capone-N-Noreaga and Mobb Deep, Tragedy Khadafi has left an indelible mark on Hip-Hop history. But in recent years—though not entirely removed from the rap radar—Trag hasn’t exactly been shinin’ like a lighthouse beacon. His reemergence was felt, however, when he dropped the stellar Still Reportin’ in 2003. Now back to once again prove the game isn’t totally full of corporate-bred toy soldiers, he drops his fifth full-length album, Thug Matrix (Fastlife/Sure Shot).

Starting off with “The Game (It’s Over)” featuring Havoc, Trag and Hav both display their lyrical depth overtop another flawlessly crafted aural treat courtesy of the M-O-B-B boardsmith. Trag is also perfectly complimented by fellow Queensbridge natives Nature and Littles, who both shine atop Scram Jones’ thunderous drums and sequenced hand-claps on “On Grind.” Cormega adds to the bars of fury and further exhibits why the Bridge ain’t even close to being over on “Break Bread,” where he drops his usual hardened introspection alongside Trag. “Blood, sweat, tears/no regrets or fears/in the mirror asking my reflection, ‘is death near?”

Trag flows like a bloody nose on the old-school tinged “Aura,” while coming back to wax poetic on the piano-key laden “Lyrical Calisthetics.” Both are solid cuts in their own right, but it’s the Alchemist cook-up “Stay Free” that really knocks. Here, Tragedy’s lyrical collage of Five Percent ideology and street aesthetic is perfectly manifested. “Get it straight, the icon/rap like a python/Libya, my insignia is straight Lebanon.”

Though Thug Matrix doesn’t exactly punch-in where Reportin’ left off (check the bland “Intro” and the cutting-room floor caliber “I Don’t Wanna Live No More”), the quality music is still bountiful. And considering the abundance of half-hearted garbage that so many of today’s so-called stars spit through the filter, Matrix is refreshing because it is able to keep your head noddin’ without leaving it feeling hollow. Thus, this addition surely deserves mad burn in the car stereo, and is testament to Tragedy’s future induction into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.

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