There was a certain point early last year where it became perfectly clear that Odd Future had taken over as the prominent force in the eyes of both hip – hop and indie rock critic circles. This is sad, because in 2010 Das Racist was much more deservedly so the new rap group to look out for. Honestly it should have stayed this way, they are wildly original, have a keener ear for beats, have better flows and overall provided a much more rewarding listening experience. However, in light of this it seems the smart-ass trio has decided to take a step back and develop their respective personas in a more relaxed (no pun intended) and in-depth way, at the cost of some of their energy.
51, second solo effort by Kool A.D. (Victor Vazquez), finds an artist slowly realizing their true potential. The Trackademics produced “Manny Pacquiao” finds Kool A.D. for the first time displaying a type of “Bay-Area-through-the-lens-of-indie” style that is highly original and very comfortable for him. Especially in the wake of the success of YMCMB’s “The Motto”, it is impressive to hear a lesser-known artist demolish a similar beat while displaying goofy bravado with lines like “Bitch, I’m Thom Yorke / Bitch, I’m James Murphy”. “California Music Channel” provides a similar experience while offering one of the only rewarding guest spots, also from Trackademics.
However there is an entirely different sound going on in the mixtape as well. A very classic hip – hop sound similar to that of Blackalicious and Madvillian. Some of these tracks work great absent of the bravado displayed on the Bay influenced tracks. “Arrested Development” provides an endearing and light-hearted look at games women like to play with men, while “La Piñata” reminds the listener nobody is “just being themselves”. However there is something much more invigorating about hearing Kool A.D. own a beat while being a smart –ass hipster. The cleverly titled “Donda” provides great one-liners like “I’m so emotional like Thursday” while “The Robbery” keeps the cool and delivers one of the few moments where Vazquez reminds why Das Racist was popular in the first place.
And despite all these great moments, the mixtape has almost 20 minutes worth of music it could really do with out. Almost every guest spot is terrible, especially Main Attrakionz, with the exception of Trackademics, Heems and Boot Riley. However the Boot Riley featured track, “Leverage”, finds Kool A.D. riding out the beat rambling almost like Birdman. Every track produced by Vazquez himself is just bizarre poorly mixed instrumental hip – hop except for “A Milli”. Every track produced by Young L is garbage period. Sadly enough, throughout the mixtape there is flashes of Kool A.D. trying to do the Das Racist, chilled out, half trying, stoner rap, ultimately proving its impossible with out the rest of the crew. Getting rid of all of this, literally shaving it off and keeping the rest as is, would have resulted in short bursts of dope effortless rhymes on some beautifully produced tracks. Sounds like a formula created by a certain Madvillian. C+
51 was released April 25, 2012 through Greedhead / Mishka Records / Veehead. Free on Mishkanyc.com