Nipping at the heels of 2011’s acclaimed Rythmatic Eternal King Supreme—a record that earned him nominations in Boston for both “Hip-Hop Artist of the Year” and “Album of the Year”—Reks returns alongside fellow Beantowner—and a man that knows a thing or two about striking while the iron is hot—DJ/Producer Statik Selektah.
Where Reks’ previous albums have featured beats from a variety of producers—DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Alchemist, Hi-Tek, etc.—Straight, No Chaser’s weakest point comes as a result of the singularity in production. Having saturated the market with an impressive grip of projects with other MCs in the last couple years—Action Bronson, Terminology, Freddie Gibbs, to name a few—it’s not surprising that there are moments here that indicate Statik Selektah may be set on autopilot. The whole thing loses some serious steam about two thirds the ways in. In fact, it’s hard to tell if Statik just took a timeout or hit the wall completely. Being a long-time collaborator with Reks and even the godfather of one of his children, it’s hard to imagine Statik just gathering a bunch of throw-away or rejected beats from some of his other projects for this album, yet it does seem only half-motivated.
That being said, there are definitely some worthy beats here that in turn stimulate nice raps. On what is arguably the best song on the record, The Mel Gibson/Danny Glover duo-inspired “Riggs and Murtaugh” shows Action Bronson and Reks trading verses against a RZA/Wu-like backdrop. On the title track, Reks and guest MC Slaine spit bars over a twisted downbeat looped with minimal keys that recall DJ Premier’s work with Jeru the Damaja. And the same can be said of the posse cut “Such a Showoff”, which features Statik scratching across hard-hitting boom-bap, while Kali, JFK, Termanolgy, and Reks channel the rap ruckus of the ‘90s.
On that note, Statik also deserves credit for keeping alive a key ingredient of hip-hop that has been all but abandoned by the current crop: turntablism. Even when his beats are substandard, he keeps things stirring by showcasing his scratching ability. And as usual, he has an unsullied skill for crafting hooks made up of clever samples and cuts. Key notables on this record include The Beastie Boys in “Autograph,” Common in “Sit/Think/Drink”, and 50 Cent in “Cancel That.”
Lyrically, Reks spans a variety of autobiographical-slanted themes in an honest manner in which the title implies. Straight, No Chaser is a personal reflection on a number topics such as political upheaval and empowerment, Capital Vices, divorce, and living with regret. On “Parenthood”—wherein the message is simple: “be a parent in the hood”—he goes at fathers who are continuing the succession of leading their sons into street life: “A boy needs a father to lean on/If he gone, the cycle gonna repeat/Just keepin’ On.” In short, despite some lackluster production, this is Reks most grown-up and progressive outing to date.
7.0 / 10
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