Carving A New Standard Vol. 1

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.’s Up Above Records served as a reliable outlet for the right-minded Visionaries crew and their West Coast affiliates…but not much else. Hence the label’s reputation forever changed when they released emerging East Coast producer on the mic, Kev Brown’s 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 shouldn’t 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 “carving a new standard” in Hip-Hop. When LMNO raps, “This isn’t backpacker verses gangsta rap/Both sides are guilty for committin’ the wack,” on “Ricochet,” 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 “Not That Way,” which sees freestyle champion Supernatural prove that he’s also an able songwriter as he counts his blessings over a melodious Marco Polo production. Then on “Southern Lady,” underrated MC J-Sands of Lone Catalysts gets as playful as L.F. Daze’s bouncy swing jazz beat in verbalizing his love for country females.

Unfortunately, it’s 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 “I Got A Right To Know,” his societal inquiries are delivered in a style a little too akin to what Jadakiss did on his hit single “Why?” And RBX’s street-side lecture (“Free”) 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 it’s the lesser-known talent that truly delivers the goods.