Hunger Music

Artist: LongshotsTitle: Hunger MusicRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Paine

Smart Hip-Hop references itself. It’s aware of its surroundings, and works to create space at the table to eat. New York dup The Longshots are hungry and fast approaching the table. Hunger Music (Sun City) is a debut album speaking directly to those who kept Hip-Hop alive, and simply wanted in. Stuffed with references and allusions to everybody from Grand Puba to Biggie to Jeru, the Longshots reveal their inspirations. Speaking their own language, this is an album that combines the themes and tones of Group Home’s Livin’ Proof with the delivery and approach of Arsonists’ As the World Burns.

MC’s Crayon and Rock Shabazz are both very convincing in their effort to dramatize. “Cold World, Frozen Tears” captures the “now or never” mentality of a dream. At no point do the lyrics wow the listener, but rather the images of needs and wants transfer well. Here, as in several points, the group references guns and self-defense. Like G Rap or Nasty Nas’ early days, they not only threaten to beat opponents with weapons, but songs like “Ready For War Pt. 2” mention lyrical combat. In 2005, it’s rare to see artists combining these egos. However, Hunger Music may be trying to do too many things at once. “Running Back to You” sucks up the tough demeanor the group uses, and really feels like a less enthused cover of Freeway’s “What We Do.” By and large, The Longshots succeed in writing street-minded raps that pay homage to Hip-Hop while reveal a want ten years in the making.

In order to successfully be about New York Hip-Hop, a lot depends on Hunger Music’s production. Immortal Technique collaborators, The Beat Bandits do an extremely fine job holding it down. Specifically, Metaphysic succeeds in a slow-rolling string arrangement on “The Sneak Attack.” An elaborate scratch-chorus enhances the rugged intentions of the song’s lyrics. The veteran, Ayatollah also contributes on “First Brick.” This is another string arrangement, chopped thick – and scratch-chorus. “Hands Up” though, feels much too fast, and feels uneasy to the ear, albeit an intended party anthem. The album uses a little ‘chipmunk soul’ to get by, but thrives on its simple, but firm music that largely matches the lyrical themes.

The days of debut New York artists creating street-minded, self-made independents feel behind us. Hunger Music is charming for bucking that system alone. Unlike so many of their peers, Crayon and Shabazz ignore witty punchlines, and focus almost entirely on detail. They know their situation is not unique, and this album shows their answers both as a product, and the music within. Whether The Longshots debut will stick to the ribs of the not-so-hungry Hip-Hop consumer will be determined in time.