Artist: Up Above Records Presents…Title: Carving A New Standard Vol. 1Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman
From the mid-90s to the early-2000s, L.A.âs Up Above Records served as a reliable outlet for the right-minded Visionaries crew and their West Coast affiliatesâ¦but not much else. Hence the labelâs reputation forever changed when they released emerging East Coast producer on the mic, Kev Brownâs debut album (I Do What I Do) last year. No longer were they just a West Coast imprint. On Carving A New Standard Vol. 1 (Up Above), this Cali-born label aptly celebrates their ever-expanding roster, which now includes Prince Po (Organized Konfusion) and even Chali 2NA (Jurassic 5). But among the 21 tracks from this diverse lineup, listeners shouldnât expect to be blown away. If anything, they can expect to hear mostly solid, forward-looking Hip-Hop.
When it comes to lyrical content, the artists of Up Above are undoubtedly on their way towards âcarving a new standardâ in Hip-Hop. When LMNO raps, âThis isnât backpacker verses gangsta rap/Both sides are guilty for committinâ the wack,â on âRicochet,â he helps set the non-elitist tone of the compilation. With a few exceptions, the artists of Up Above all make smart yet fairly accessible music. Although, the standout tracks here come from unlikely suspects. Take the revelatory number âNot That Way,â which sees freestyle champion Supernatural prove that heâs also an able songwriter as he counts his blessings over a melodious Marco Polo production. Then on âSouthern Lady,â underrated MC J-Sands of Lone Catalysts gets as playful as L.F. Dazeâs bouncy swing jazz beat in verbalizing his love for country females.
Unfortunately, itâs some of the bigger names that leave more to be desired. While Prince Po made a strong comeback with his 2004 The Slickness album, on âI Got A Right To Know,â his societal inquiries are delivered in a style a little too akin to what Jadakiss did on his hit single âWhy?â And RBXâs street-side lecture (âFreeâ) is too lyrically abbreviated for his words to sink in. On the upside, there are enough quality tracks from a surprising variety of talent to make Carving A New Standard worth checking for–even if itâs the lesser-known talent that truly delivers the goods.