Push Comes to Shove

Artist: M.E.D.Title: Push Comes to ShoveRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kevin Polowy

M.E.D. steps into the arena a little harder than most of his contemporaries in Cali's subterranean Hip-hop scene on Push Comes to Shove (Stones Throw), a valiant debut that should instantaneously put heads on alert. It also makes us wonder what the hell's in the water in his hometown of Oxnard, CA – the same breeding ground that's produced Madlib, Oh No, Declaime and Wildchild.

With a sometimes-grimy, commanding flow, fast and furious rhyme scheme and exceptional breath control, the emcee also known as Medaphoar could very well carve out his own niche in the national landscape because he's got that invaluably transcending appeal. Stones Throw loyalists and indie adherents have been feeling him since a 2000 collabo with Lord Quas on Unseen, while purists and hip-hoppers more aligned in centerfield are already fielding his hits.

The lead single "Push" has been getting a lotta love, and deservedly so, with a heavyweight synth beat (courtesy of J-Dilla) that should come with a warning tag: May Drive Users to Hotwire Nearest SUV. Lyrically, it sounds like not-too-distant descendant of "Ms. Fat Booty." Hear M.E.D. spit stanzas like "Can't help it/ Losing my patience/ With her anklets/ All up to her fragrance/ Smelling like cherry pie/ Hypnotized" or "Cinnamon eyes/ Sweet lies/ Brown skintone/ Rolling stone/ Pinky ring/ Big stone/ Always on her cell phone" and tell me you don’t hear an homage to Mos.

Still, the preceding track "Can't Hold On" takes top honors from this judge. The bass-heavy, addictive ring of Madlib's production is enough to lose yourself in (imagine Pete Rock and Dre molding a beat together), while M.E.D.'s evocative, memory-lane manifestations and a melting hook seal the deal. Speaking of melting, songstress Noelle lends some sweet soul to "Special" and "Nightlife," while M.E.D. maintains that Yeah, you can still be hard on R&B joints.

Other standouts include "Hold Your Breath," a futuristic-if-too-fleeting display of expert script-flipping over illness from Madlib (who holds down most of the beats), and "Get Back," a club-killer produced with godliness by Just Blaze. In its plentitude, there's something about the assorted vibes and overall arrangement of Push to Comes to Shove that recalls Talib Kweli's last two solo records. That might not be an obvious endorsement to some, but just imagine what that means this cat can do next.