If you know me, listen to Redefinition Radio, regularly read any of my wordy online ramblings, or had any discussion with me in the last ten years about my favorite new(er) MCs then you should be aware that I’m a big Chief Kamachi fan. He’s among a select elite few who I consider natural MCs. He just has “it”. It’s a gift. However, he doesn’t let that allow him to be lazy. He loves it, values it, and still strives to achieve higher levels of mastery over the craft.
That in mind, I’m going to focus the bulk of this review on taking a deeper look at the lyrics. That is the primary driving force behind a Chief Kamachi album. It’s going to be a rather challenging effort for any album this year to surpass “Rise And Rhyme” lyrically, the bar has been set pretty high early in 2012.
All the lyric talk is not to say the production is worth ignoring, because there are some quality beats present. However, in some cases, there’s nothing particularly dynamic about the production. In general, it sets the tone and stays out of the way and let’s Kamachi go to work. Many of the beats have an interesting vibe or premise, but the biggest critique is the arrangement. Beyond that, they tend to have a similar signature cinematic epic warrior sound, invoking visions of theme music for a Future Primitive B-Boy entering the arena for combat. As powerful of an image that induces, it is still good to hear him on some varied sounds. It’s these alternate tracks that shine the most on the album; “Chuck D”, “Return Of The 7”, & “Get Righteous Or Die Trying” [all 3 produced by Audio Narcotics], as well as “Rise And Rhyme [Produced By Diract Beatz] and “Bulletproof Auras” [Produced by Junior Makhno].
As far as guests, there are four tracks with vocal appearances. With the exception of Killah Priest, none of the names were recognizable to me, but some of those unknowns drop enough quality gems to have sparked my interest in searching for more of their material. I’m not exactly sure who is who on each track, so the complete list of MC collaborators are Vendetta Kingz, G8abak, Columbo Black, Contra Psalmz, & Merc Versus. DJ White Shadow is also a solid presence on the album, supplying cuts and scratches.
Here are just some of the albums lyrical highlights below. This is my best interpretation from listening in headphones. Hopefully Kamachi will correct any misquotes if they exist…
The album opens with “3rd Lecture”, an on-going saga from his previous albums (except “Concrete Gospel” where an installment is now noticeably missing). This is a 2:43 minute lyrical exercise where he drops a series of gems such as “Pyramid builder trying to find tenants/What we find behind the sky is MY limits” and “African lion, war for Orion/Old ancestors used to Breakdance with the Mayans”.
“Chuck D” was the first leak from the album and has an ill and controversial video. Building off the title, the scratches in the hook and pieces of his lyrics pay homage to Chuck D and Public Enemy. The video itself gives life to the PE concept “Louder Than A Bomb”. It’s a great song on it’s own, but for the full effect I suggest viewing the music video. It’s virtually impossible to single any of the lyrics out, as it is pretty lethal thru out, but the final bars to the first two verses are both pretty stellar,
Verse One: “One, Two, Mic Check, Sunzu/Run away slave, in the jungle wearing one shoe/I am the body the great leaders can come thru/Neck loose from every noose that it hung thru!”
Verse Two: “Nat burner, don’t wanna be a crack earner/God Body, historical fact learner/House Ni***as…Uncle Toms…Janitors/I’m in the lab with the pen like Ben Banneker/Cure for A.I.D.S in a West African canister/The killing fields, Cannonball brandisher!”
“Return Of The 7” has Kamachi making use of a more relaxed tone to his approach, but the subject matter remains heavy, as he reasons, “Don’t need a dollar if it gets me or my family hurt” while enjoying drinking a “Glass of wine from a old Egyptian distillery”, and spends his earnings and time responsibly, ”…Invest in rare books, don’t care about a sneaker sale/Power to the people, the only thing the speakers yell/Mission complete when all of my messages can reach the jail”.
The start of the third verse is a excellent example of his seamless weaving of words, “Young Tut it gotta be, New Millennium odyssey/Digging deep, thinking they hit the spiritual lottery/All they found was fragments and pieces of old pottery/Searching in the sky, but the secret’s kept inside of me/Me and my rituals, different camaraderie/ 9th Wonder, light thunder, laughing at Socrates/Children in my village I raised got better prophecies/Our stolen legacy, they begging me to stop it please/For our knowledge we were strung up and dropped in seas (?)*/But was reincarnated one of the top MCS…”
*this could also be “dropped and seized”???
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/04-Return-Of-The-7.mp3|titles=04 Return Of The 7]
“Get Righteous Or Die Tryin” deals with the struggle of trying to escape the street life and showcases his gift for disturbing visuals, as he outlines the limited world view of a drug dealer on the corner, “Talk to the karma king trying to get the game score/It ain’t red or blue, the color green starts the gang war/I did some things in life that I should be ashamed for/Eight hour shifts in the snow by the same store/Dope fiends bopping their heads with a vein tore/Walk with the steel umbrella if the rain pour/Welcome to the world young fella, we getting slain more/Can’t think straight, they putting poison in our brain core/My sneaker money taking food out of children’s stomach/three weeks in the street, watch the good feelings plummet…”
Near the end of his journey he finds himself nearing a path of Righteousness, “See the light and the force come, dance to the war drum/All this bulls**t music making us more dumb/The stress, drugs and sex is weakening our health/I ain’t preaching to ni**as, I’m just speaking for myself/Yeah…Child of Africa, raised in America/Traveling back home, trying to purify my character”.
He relentlessly continues with the grim visuals on “Soul Soldier”, “Came from the east, trying to raise my family in the wild west/Daughter jumping rope in a pretty colorful Nile dress/Blood on the playground fence making her smile less/ni**as dead, case getting buried under the file chest/My son’s play astrology, science a hobby/Now they study crack viles in a project lobby…”
Kamachi is also deserving of a salute for another of his strengths, writing hooks that are worthy of equal praise to the verses. This is clearly evident in the dire scene of the “Soul Soldier” chorus, "Soul Soldier, still singing Sankofa/Cops at the door and the gun’s under the sofa/Before I open the door I kiss my Black Panther poster/You’ll ni**as scared to ride this American rollercoaster!”
“The Gypsy” is testament to his story-telling skills, which is already evident thru the use of visual imagery described above, but hearing it in this context invites a different appreciation. It depicts his meeting with a Gypsy and the story cleverly combines his potent mixture of the street life, mystics, and intellect.
Mind you, that’s just a touch of the highlights. I didn’t even speak on the title track, “Rise And Rhyme” which is pretty bonkers from the opening line to the last bar or “Rapwhore” which is essentially a reworking of Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R” concept with an ill twist.
As I listen this album, about the tenth time in the last 24 hours, it tempts my imagination to run wild. The way he speaks of black magic and things of the sort I ponder is it feasible that he conjured up a concoction that forces words to do his bidding and fall perfectly in place, in rhyme form, as he wills it so? That line of thinking is nearly more plausible to consider than any simple belief that he can “just rhyme that good”. Despite my previous comment, rhyming this well isn’t all entirely natural. It is actually rather uncommon. If you want to reach this level, “Rise And Rhyme”, as Freeway, his Philly brethren, says, “Early!”
Written By Kevin “Still A Rap Fan” Beacham