The Grand Opening

Artist: Planet AsiaTitle: The Grand OpeningRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: TOBY9060

After years of developing his name in underground Hip-Hop with various twelve-inch singles and stellar guest appearances, Planet Asia has finally released his proper debut album,The Grand Opening. As the title suggests, this is the first day of business for Planet Asia's long awaited solo career. Past record label woes that held him back now behind him, he is back on the block and ready to grind. Asia has not lost his touch and proves that on this album.

From the jump it is clear that Asia wants to make his lyrical presence felt. The opening track "16 Bars Of Death" sets the mood as he spits a passionate battle rap over a hard knocking beat. His aggressive delivery fits the track well as he challenges his peers to get the quality of their "bars up". The album proceeds nicely with assistance from Dilated Peoples' front man, Evidence, on the boards. On "Right Or Wrong" Ev flips a soulful Jackie Moore sample ("With Your Love") and tops it off with some scratches similar to DJ Premier in his heyday. Asia drops an introspective rhyme that gives the listener some insight on his plan to better himself by any means. "It don't matter if it's right or wrong/I’ma get my hustle on/You acting like there's something wrong/I'm just trying to put my peoples on/Gotta get off that to each his own."

Further along into the album he rips the horn flavored "Pure Coke" to shreds. Asia sounds at home when he is spitting over tracks that match his intensity such as the following: "My music feels real good that's why the braille feels it/but the rest of that shit should get filtered/who would of thought that a nigga from Cali would of brought the game back to the way that they built it/ my cipher sounds surrounds the earth to leave the planet tilted." Female hip-hoppers (or sensitive thugs for that matter) need not worry about overdosing on battle raps and street anthems. "Hypnotize" is a well-constructed ode to that around-the-way-girl in our lives. The Grand Opening also features strong guest appearances from Shoalin's finest Ghostface Killa on "Real Niggaz" and fellow Cali Agent associate Rasco on "The Greatest."

Unfortunately Asia doesn't finish strongly. "It's All Big" falls short of the club banger that it was originally intended to be. The beat J Wells provided sounds like a poor man's Neptunes track. Adding generic rhymes about rim sizes and poppin' bottles to the mix results in a press of the fast-forward button. "Swallow Dem Whole" and "Light Green" are duds as well with both songs suffering from lame hooks and generic production.

Overall, The Grand Opening is a solid debut effort. While it does have its share of disappointments, Planet Asia’s long delayed burner will hold us down until the first day of business at his next location.