Artist: RascoTitle: The Dick Swanson Theory Part 1Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Bill “Low-Key” Heinzelman
As one half of the Cali Agents, veteran emcee Rasco helped revive a stagnant West Coast underground scene in the late 90’s with his two critically acclaimed albums Time Waits For No Man and The Birth EP. With a distinguishable raspy voice and articulate wordplay, Rasco proved there was a middle ground between Cali’s gang bangin’ and the underground scene. Now on his fifth solo album, The Dick Swanson Theory Pt. 1 (Pockets Linted), Rasco continues to deliver that intelligent yet gritty street music he is revered for making. Even though the album doesn’t break any new ground, its another solid LP from one of Cali’s most consistent lyricists.
With an abundance of braggadocios rhymes and hard beats, The Dick Swanson Theory picks up where 2003’s Escape From Alcatraz left off. “Pressures Of Life” finds Rasco showcasing his razor sharp lyrics and slick flow over producer Jake One’s overused but undeniably dope sample. The standout track “Backdown” is another memorable Cali Agents effort, as Rasco and Planet Asia’s chemistry is second to none. While the track isn’t the duo’s most creative, the two still manage to shine over Therapy’s Middle Eastern influenced production. Even though The Dick Swanson Theory relies heavily on top-notch lyricism, there are a few change of pace tracks. The most notable being “Chances,” which is a solid story telling narrative that finds Rasco taking a chance with a girl who “may change his world.”
While Rasco stays in top form throughout The Dick Swanson Theory, surprisingly the collaborative efforts leave much to be desired. The odd pairing with the abstract heavy Aesop Rock on “World’s Collide” falters from the start, as Aesop’s nonsensical rhymes do not fare well with Rasco’s style. Ras fuses better with Souls of Mischiefs Opio on “This Is How It Goes Down,” however, the track suffers from a bland hook and an average 9th Wonder influenced beat by Willie Evans Jr. Even the collaboration with Ras Kass on “Making The Rounds” disappoints, as Rasco outshines Ras over a terrible synthesizer beat.
While the collaborations may end up as the weak links of the album, thankfully, they do not take away from the overall cohesion of The Dick Swanson Theory. Even though the album could have benefited from some more conceptual material, there is no denying Rasco’s lyrical ability. And while the West Coast underground scene may not get the attention it deserves, you can be guaranteed that won’t stop Rasco from pumping out consistent albums for the foreseeable future.