Artist: Ground Original Presents…Title: ClaimstakeRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: N. Context
If you missed DJ JS-1 and Dub-L’s first go around with Ground
Original: Level One, here’s a second chance for you to get a first impression with Ground Original Presents: Claimstake. This independent production duo first began making waves by releasing break records and 12″ singles, and ultimately made a splash in the industry with Level One which featured the likes of KRS-ONE, Planet Asia, Evidence, OC, Kool G Rap et al. While Claimstake continues this all-star cast trend by including the likes of Common, Supernatural, Jeru the Damaja, and J-Live, the end product is just a’ight.
Claimstake starts off behind the eight ball with its opening track “Ground Original”. The basic drum line and amateurishly mixed horn sample sound as if it was made with a “my first Sony” drum machine. React adds nothing to the song with his on/off beat lyrical flow. The second track is Supernatural doing “Truly Incredible”, based on his battle verse with Juice where he begins “what, wha, what, wha, what what…I’m Truly incredible…” While I love freestylers and freestyle battles, I’ve never been a fan of a freestyle song. Supernatural freestyled “Truly Incredible” in 2 takes and while that is impressive there aren’t any quotables or worthwhile punch lines.
From there the album gets a lot better. The production emerges to be the foundation of the album. JS-1 and Dub-L provide a slew of “boom bap” dominated baselines for the artist to display their rhyme skills. “Day In The Life” has a spacey synthesized keys sample giving Chase Phoenix a “storytelling canvass” for him to play with. “Won’t Stop” features Jeru spitting the best I’ve heard since his debut album. Common blesses “While I’m Dancing” starting off “Night breathes/we hustle to fulfill life’s needs/travel at light speeds/the appetite for light weed/ got seeds to feed in between greed and need/deep in the struggle and a n#### need to breath…” A couple of other notable mentions are “Never Know What’s Next”, featuring Trez and AK, and “Soulcrush” featuring Session. The former displays a dark base track with the soul sample which has become so prevalent while Trez and AK ride the track with grimy lyrics. The latter displays Session verbally brutalizing the track with rough rhymes over a funky horn and key sample.
While there are some very good songs on this album they get outweighed by the mediocrity surrounding them. The solid production from JS-1 and Dub-L is the only thing that saves some of the weaker songs; making them decent at best. It’s a nice album to have in the collection, but there are way too many skipable tracks to say it’s a go getter.