KRS-One; Showbiz; Boogie Down Productions; D.I.T.C. Names that ring out louder in the underground hip hop community than church bells on a Sunday morning. They don't really need no further presentation but with over 20 albums to his name since his 1987 debut (the groundbreaking and highly influential “Criminal Minded”) it wouldn’t be wrong to hail Kris as microphone champ #1. At the same time Showbiz been doing his thing on the production side for a long time, turning every release with partner-in-rhyme AG into a little masterpiece in its own right as well as being the most driving force behind the legendary Diggin’ in the Crates crew and label. The duo behind “Godsville” has some history together as well; dating back to 1993 when “Sound of Da Police” became one of the most memorable rap track to ever been put to wax. Since that success KRS made sure Show was a part of all his albums up to 1999's shelved "Maximum Strength" as well as Show inviting Kris to open up the classic posse cut "Drop It Heavy" with Big Pun and AG.
Despite their last collaboration together dating back over a decade in time, their past merits, both individually and together, were almost enough to knock me out physically when I first heard that they were preparing an entire album worth of new material for a near release. As many artists does these days the duo tested the waters by releasing a digital only version of the "Godsville" album on February 15, which was followed by release on CD and LP on May 8th. I have never bought an Mp3-file in my life and will probably never do so either, but I did however place a pre-order on the CD as soon as possible while downloading the leak to get a taste of what these legends had been cooking up over at Headquarters (formerly D&D) studios. For some reason the internet store fucked up my order and I had totally forgot about it until i found a package in my mail today containing the CD which explains this late review.
The first time I heard the album through the leak I was deeply dissapointed, and mainly in Show; the man who told Robbie @ Unkut.com that he didn't really care for non-sample based hip hop now had abandoned the sample style that made him the producer legend he is today. The horns and accoustic bass of "Runaway Slave", the sinister and threatening vibes of "Goodfellas", the sci-fi funk of "Full Scale" and even the gorgeous Keith Jarrett-esque piano sample of a track like "Land Of The Free '08" from their most recent EP was all gone. Instead those elements had been replaced with drums that didn't thump nearly as hard as we'd grown to expect and both basslines, melodies and bridges were played on synths and keyboards. And not a fender rhodes either! Sure there were some magic on the album, such as "Show Power" and the amazing "The Truth" where KRS spit jewels like "Me? I'm on some other shit/ The truth can't stay in my mouth i got to spit it out"over an almost "Full Scale"-esque backdrop conducted by Show with the help of E-Blaze (who together form the new edition of Born Lordz). The problem to me then was that the four best songs on the album were also the four joints that had been leaked previously in promotion and on a 30 minutes short LP that's only 11 songs deep something like that is bound to dilute the first few listens.
While I felt Show's production wasn't up to par, then what about KRS-One's performance on here? Well, this man is still The Greatest MC of All Time in my opinion, one who truly cares about the culture more than record sales, but you'd have to fool yourself to claim that he still flows as effortlessly as he did on, say, "Sex & Violence". This has been the case for a number of recent KRS projects, where on about 75 percent of the tracks he really hits the nail like its supposed to be hit but on the remaining 25% he can come off kind of sloppy or using dated metaphors, sometimes even making me (who is not an emcee) say "Why the hell didn't he rhyme that with that instead"? But most of the time his rhymes are nothing short of dope and filled with quotables, and even some of the shit he says that wouldn't sound sick at all coming from someone else, does so indeed when KRS is the one delivering. This is much because of his voice, considering he got a unique tone that make him sound like an authority figure in hip-hop and commands respect and also separates him from any other rapper out there; like the late, great GURU once said "It's mostly the voice".
So the first times I heard this 30 minute album was through my KOSS headphones via my iPod and it was slightly growing on me but never getting past that slight dissapointment. However, when I finally received the physical copy of "Godsville" in the mail today and banged it out loud enough to probably have my neighbours fantasizing about ways of killing me slowly the album hit me in a new and pleasant way. For one the sound quality was obviously better from the Mp3-files I had been rocking, and the surround system I used for playing it on added a new dimension to Show's production; revealing that these beats do indeed have plenty of thump in them. As I was now also used to the songs, the element of suprise was gone and I could focus on and enjoy the music for what it reallt was and is. It doesn't come close to the songs these guys were responsible for more than ten years back in time and I doubt anyone will consider this top material from either of them; yet, it is an enjoyable album that rewards repeated listens and like the majority of KRS-One albums should be played loud enough to make the walls shake. Another nice suprise came in that we who still buy our music in physical form was treated with two bonus tracks, making the album closer to 40 minutes all-in-all. The bonus cuts are two Showbiz remixes of the tracks "Show Power" and "Another Day". I've only heard those once so far but I can say that they both were a very welcome addition and was heavy on the bass-lines and drum patterns.
If you're not very familiar with Show or KRS-One I wouldn't recommend starting here but fans of these two musicians do not want to miss out on this one, Choice cuts include, besides tracks already mentioned, "Running In The Dark", "Improve Myself", "We Love This" and "This Flow". TURN IT UP!!!