Artist: VisionariesTitle: We Are The Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For)Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Slav Kandyba
Underground rappers from Los Angeles and other ‘burbs of the Southern Cali wasteland possess undeniable skills on the mic but often trap themselves within limiting lyrics that praise the virtues of their life and little more. Production is often suspect too, often lacking head-nodding energy of acts from the East or the rowdiness of the Bay or the ATL. On We Are the Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For) (Up Above Records), L.A.’s Visionaries appear privy to these faults, so they utilize sterling production and collaborate with singers and musicians and aren’t afraid to be honest and personal in their lyrics.
While Lord Zen, 2Mex, Dannu, KeyKool, LMNO and Beat Junkie DJ Rhettmatic start the album off giving themselves a pat on the back for grinding independently on “All We Need,” a weak topic as mentioned above, the beat from Self Scientific beatminer and Aftermath in-house producer DJ Khalil makes it sound better than tolerable. The highlight of the album may well be the late J-Dilla joint “All Right,” a soul and jazz bassline gem of a beat that finds each Visionary offering a glimpse into his home life, replete with financial struggles, family obligations and mental anguish. On the Madlib-produced posse cut “Need to Learn,” the Visionaries exchange classic verses with a heavy-hitting lineup of guests including Rakaa Iriscience, Brother J, RBX, Sadat X and YZ.
DJ Rhettmatic’s scratching and vocal samples polish off the tracks in a Premier-esque fashion on just about every track, but his production on five of the album’s 15 tracks is just so-so compared to work from Khalil or even Kev Brown, who produced “1%”. Also, while each member is a skilled emcee, 2Mex and Lord Zen find their own while the others fall back-either unable to find their voice or struggling with inconsistent timing or delivery.
Further, keeping it hype in a positive way is all good and dandy in theory, but Hip-Hop music is best when it hits on the mind, heart and soul. So, while the Visionaries may be getting by on the strength of their energetic performances, their recording success hinges on getting personal and going hard in the recording booth. With We’re the Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For), they are getting closer, but the effort is plagued by inconsistency, especially in places where the lyrics sputter and strong production isn’t able to cover it up.