Year of the Beast

Artist: C-Rayz WalzTitle: Year of the BeastRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Chris Yuscavage

C-Rayz Walz has got it made – literally. With an upcoming appearance on MTV’s social rags-to-riches endeavor “Made” (playing the role of mentor to an emcee hopeful), the Definitive Jux and Stronghold Crew member has created enough buzz with last year’s We Live – The Black Samurai EP to mark himself as one of the Hip-hop game’s most talented wordsmiths. With his tightwad flow over the rock-out production efforts throughout his Black Samurai follow-up Year of the Beast (Def Jux), C-Rayz continues his lyrical tirade on wax with enough heat and vocabulary to sustain an album absent of much else, at times.

Waiting little time to show off his knack for mastering the English language, Beast’s boom-bap production on “FirstWordsWorse” showcases C-Rayz at his best with top-notch plays on words like, “While I’m on the toilet with an L, my shit is smokin’,” and “Digi-download, Soundscan exams, top 10 choice/Want to speak out, my label keeps getting my invoice.” Spitting an ode to ignorance, Aesop Rock’s kaleidoscope of musical elements and a cheesy but effective sped-up sample create “Knowledge,” one of the first half of Beast’s only real topical contributions.

Irony strikes on “Paradise,” with C-Rayz hustling his way through the quickening El-P production, playing out as Hip-hop’s very own version of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World” – complete with enough conspiracies with sarcastic undertone to match from the partnering Jukies. The Angel and The Preacher join up with C-Rayz for the black-and-white “Blackout,” a tale of wishing to be another race and one of the year’s most clever concepts on a Hip-hop record thus far. M-1 (of dead prez) stops by for the subsequent effort, “Blacksoap,” which ensures that the issue of race is not dismissed entirely by “Blackout.”

Still, outside of a graceful vocal performance from Jean Grae on the studio thug and tough guy-bashing “Pink,” much of the rest of Beast is looped-up with a series of wordy exploits from Walz, which only command attention for days, not that Year he’s looking for.. “StreetReppin” displays the street swagger of C-Rayz and guest Vordul Mega but fails to capture the same interest as the duo’s last collaboration on Mega’s “Spitmatic,” and “MusicTakeovah” sounds anything but with an oddball effort by Walz to integrate guest Pudge’s Jamaican rambling into the hook. C-Rayz beasts enough lyrics to be considered a professional with the wordplay and worthy of at least a listen, but the Year of the Beast still comes up a few months short.