Make no mistake about it, 2011 will be remembered as the year where the West Coast reclaimed it’s bragging rights as the conveyor belt of forward-thinking hip-hop. Although the “New West” movement has been going strong for a couple of years now, until recently it was debatable whether or not there was a hegemonic threat to rap’s ruling elite. However, in a year where Kendrick Lamar has released yet another critically acclaimed project, Odd Future-mania swept the world and a host of West coast representers continue to go strong (such as Blu, Pac Div and Dom Kennedy) the threat is not only real, but it has quietly been executed. For the backpackers searching for something a little more genuine than the overtly materialistic rhyme-slinging of the “mainstream”, California has an endless plethora of artists to “restore your faith” in the genre.
However, this post isn’t about the West Coast being hip-hop’s new vanguard, I just kind of got sidetracked. The album pictured above is LA Riot by Thurz, one half of legendary California outfit U-N-I, and is the latest project to come out of the West to catch my attention this year. Along with being suspiciously apt for our very own summer of discontent, the overall concept of the album concerns the Rodney King riots that plagued Los Angeles in 1992 – and while Thurz was only 7 at the time of the riots, the approaching 20th anniversary inspired the Inglewood-native to dig deeper into the history of the uprising.
Along with the obvious edgy and politically charged lyrics that you would expect with an album titled ‘LA Riot’, the production on this tape is simply stellar – and I have to admit that at times, I’ve found myself not even listening to what Thurz is saying and simply listening to the beats. Seamlessly transitioning from the edgy discordant guitar riffs on ‘Molotov Cocktail’, to the laid-back chilled vibes of ‘Hell’s Angel’ and on to the funky rhythms of ‘Prayer’, the project is sonically excellent. LA Riot does a hell of job transporting you into the mindset of an aggrieved rioter in South Central Los Angeles almost 20 years ago, without coming off as preachy in any way.
Standout tracks for me so far include ‘Riot‘ featuring The Roots frontman Black Thought, ‘Colors’, and the aformentioned ‘Prayer’ – which deals with the break-up of U-N-I in a stark and honest manner. All in all, do yourself a favour and get your hands on this album. It’s available for purchase on iTunes – support good music if you can, but I know the “resourceful” amongst you will find a way to get your hands on this either way.