World War II: Evolution of the Torturer

Artist: VirtuosoTitle: World War II: Evolution of the TorturerRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Max Herman

Politically aware MC’s may never be satisfied with the government, but let’s face it: the outcome of the 2004 election will leave mindful lyricists no choice but to get even more militant on the mic. Just look at how many Hip-Hop songs released in the past four years were fueled by dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. Enter Virtuoso, an MC who wasn’t exactly known for being blatantly political while coming up in the Boston underground in the late-90’s. Recently, though, things have changed. Virtuoso’s electrifying sophomore album, World War II: Evolution of the Torturer (Omnipotent/Raptivism Records), sees this alert lyricist pulling no punches in sharing his concerns about where our government is leading the world.

As the violin-laced beat of the single “Fahrenheit 911” fades out, Virtuoso directly addresses the Bush administration as he ponders: “You know, I don’t want to believe these conspiracy theories, but you don’t give us any reason to believe anything to the contrary.” Virtuoso is no conspiracy nut, just a mindful man with his eyes and ears open.

Songs like the aforementioned “Fahrenheit 911,” the Akrobatik-assisted “Military Intelligence” and “Two” featuring Rise and Shine see Virtuoso and company eloquently share their perspectives on the broken promises of the President and how he lead us into a slaughter. Much like Capital D’s album Insomnia, WWII is obviously the result of doing much research on Virtuoso’s part. And like Capital D’s findings, Virtuoso’s are thankfully presented comprehensibly alongside some of the tightest production of the year. While nearly every cut on this album features a potent instrumental, the beat behind “Military Intelligence” is especially commanding. Driven by intense war drums and occasional blaring horns, this hard-hitting soundscape is the perfect backdrop for this combative number.

While much of this album deals directly with America’s involvement in Iraq, Virtuoso also avidly raps about personal issues such as losing innocence in a world of chaos (“Devilish”) and facing the reality of death (“The Reaper”). These earnest glimpses into Virtuoso’s psyche prove to be captivating throughout. This unyielding MC has certainly come a long way from his battle raps in the ‘90’s.

With the exception of the overly aggressive, metaphorical cut “Animal,” this is an accessible effort for anyone discontent with the state of the world. Through WWII, Virtuoso joins the likes of Capital D, The Perceptionists, Immortal Technique and Sabac as MC’s in 2004 who refuse to keep their governmental concerns contained. On his sophomore album Virtuoso doesn’t take much time to catch his breath as he delivers 14 well-aimed shots of high-powered Hip-Hop—filler free at that. The election may be over, but WWII remains one of the most important albums of 2004.