True Notes, Vol. 1

Artist: Okay Player:Title: True Notes, Vol. 1Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Martin A. Berrios

There is a point in time during an artist's career where recording and performing isn't enough. Ownership is now a necessity for longevity in today's music industry, and The Roots have followed suit. With the recent formation of their label OkayPlayer Records, the Philadelphia collective wastes no time in bringing us True Notes Vol. #1. Executive produced

by ?uestlove, the compilation features some of the biggest names in indie Hip-Hop.

Aceyalone sets it off nicely with “KO Player.” Madlib steps out of his comfort zone with this distorted bass driven track. Acey rides the beat efficiently as he drags the last syllable of each last word of his bars.

The L.A. rhyme veteran also uses “doubles” to further accentuate his delivery. Lil’ Brother continues the great vibe with “On & On.” Producer de jour 9th Wonder cooks up a soulful platform for Big Pooh and Phonte to speak on their day to day lives as rappers. Phonte provides a perfect visual with these lines: “They wanna know 9th and wanna know Pooh/but they ain’t trying to know the crazy shit they go through/like 4 am in the booth recording vocals/or at the club watching fake niggas approach you.”

With all of the artists featured on True Notes Vol. #1, it is Skillz who steals the show. “Take It Back” instantly catches the listener’s attention. The hook is catchy but far from gimmicky. His signature cocky demeanor compliments the bouncy track excellently. As his recent year-end wrap-ups showed us all, Skillz' light shines brightest when his creative juices flow. On the humorous "Pastor Skillz," we find our favorite Virginian stepping into the role of a quick-tongued church deacon who has no problem on dropping dimes on the mis-doings of his clergy. Dialated Peoples (“Okay”) and Jean Grae (“Keep Living”) also make noteworthy contributions.

The problem with this compilation lies within the nature of these types of releases. The wide array of vibes from the featured artists hinder True Notes from being the stellar project that reads so well on paper. When

listening to Dice Raw's “I Do What I Like” (produced by RJD2), you tend to wonder if crew love is a bigger priority than quality music. Truck and Mack’s “Bang Bang” and The Chapter’s “For The Wreckord” also add into the album's dull moments. Even The Roots' “Yall Know Who” is quite dated (it first appeared on The Wood Soundtrack in 1999), leaving their hardcore fans disappointed.

With Skillz and Jean Grae anchoring the project, surely some heads will still find True Notes enjoyable. Unfortunately, the inconsistencies

make the first release on OkayPlayer Records just "Okay" (pun Intended).