CunninLynguists: Dirty Acres

6 starsWith a name like CunninLynguists, you would expect something more humorous and light hearted. But CunninLyguists are probably one of the most talented Hip-Hop groups that you’ve never heard of. The trio is from that southern school of Hip-Hop that is socially conscience, poetic and charming. The southern artists that we all know and love that take themselves seriously enough to counteract buffoonery and sensationalized money grubbing. On their fourth album, Dirty Acres (APOS/Bad Taste) CunninLynguists prove to be balancing acts in the vain of Outkast, Goodie Mob and Little Brother. Deacon the Villain, Natti, and Kno have been around for several years dropping critically acclaimed but overlooked gems since 2001. They begin the album with a spoken word intro by the Dungeon Family’s poet laureate Big Rube which leads into the first track “Valley of Death”. This track sets the tone of the album with its social commentary and imagery. Throughout Dirty Acres Deacon and Natti display exceptional lyricism overshadowing the production. The album is produced entirely by Kno. He has a consistent signature sound that’s mellow with a soft drum line, piano riffs and chimes. But Kno’s melodious production can get redundant and the album could have benefited from a variety of beat makers. However his laidback sound fits perfectly on the first single, “Yellow Lines” featuring Little Brother’s Phonte. It features a guitar riff that whines throughout the entire track as if it were played completely on the whammy bar. If this song were a room it’d be a hot smoke filled space under a red light bulb. It’s a fresh love song but is upstaged by other cuts on the album like “Thinks I Dream”. In this song the cymbals cascade periodically against a chilling violin that haunts the track adding to the darkness of the lyrics from the group: I’m electing this evening/ to end my life without reason/ ‘cuz I’m indicted for treason/closing my eyes and I’m leaking/ dragging the knife ‘til I’m bleeding/ cuz it’s the life that I’m seeking/ feels only right that I’m meeting with Jesus. Underground, and even lesser known groups, tend to suffer from boring or just plain dreadful production. Cunninlynguists have fallen victim to the former with the tracks starting to melt into one sound. The less than stellar production weighs down the stellar lyricism. These guys should step out of their comfort zone musically if they should ever want to start collecting moon men and gold plaques.