Artist: The Ranjahz/DJ RerokTitle: Operation Awareness (Mixtape)Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine
Between Bleek and Beans, it was The Ranjahz that rose under Jay-Z’s wing on Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2, The Streets is Watching, and DJ Clue’s Backstage album. However, by the time the Crown Heights, Brooklyn duo released their album, they had defected from the short-lived Team Roc subsidiary, and subsequently the spotlight. Save for the Cee-Lo and DJ Premier assisted, “Inspiration,” the Ranjahz never got their due, and nearly ten years after their arrival, Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie and DJ Rerok reintroduce Haph and Wais with Operation Awareness: What The F*ck is a Hiatus (Crazy Cat).
The Ranjahz aren’t mentioned in too many conversations of lyrics, but a five-year disappearance did them well. Even with cliche subject matter like “Money Murda Musik,” the duo manages to provide a passionate chorus that brings the listener in. “I’m a Tell You” isn’t as memorable, whereby Wais and Haph fail to do little but tell an uninterested audience to get their money. This split between emphatic live-or-die verses and senseless bragging drive the album right up the middle.
With D-Dot backing, production expectations are high. While the former Hitman and Haph surprisingly sit back, Buckwild, Emile, and Green Lantern step in. Newcomer Hiprokrazy Muzik fills in the holes, and does so well. On “Determine,” a dramatic vocal sample with hard percussion brings out the urgency in The Ranjahz’ verses. However, “Eagle Eye” is a dismal attempt at southern Hip-Hop, for the group, and the producer. Buckwild’s deft digging shines as strings and guitar accents make “3rd Person” even more creative, as the Ranjahz tell their own grimy stories in the third person like Rickey Henderson.
As other late ’90s alums Ali Vegas and Genovese make strides to comeback, the Ranjahz deserve recognition. Operation Awareness packs features and production that match many albums, with a hunger in the group lost on 2003’s Who Feels it Knows. Listeners who miss the convincing drug parlays in New York rap will find solace in revisiting the Ranjahz, who drop a tape that’s not killer, but hardly filler.