Originally a late-'90s Wu-Tang offshoot, the Sunz of Man collective went through quite a number of transformations, with group membership changing with each subsequent release, their Freedom of Speech release being no exception. This election-year release (streeting a week before the 2004 Bush-Kerry vote) is essentially a two-man effort, featuring Hell Razah and 4th Disciple, and it's a fierce one -- politically charged and musically impressive. Songs like "Rebel Music" and "Article One" are street-level political in a sense mostly unheard since the good old days of Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Paris, and Ice Cube. Not only do these Sunz of Man have an agenda, it's a coherent one and very reasonable -- not as extreme as Dead Prez, not as utopian as the more idealistic rants of Nas, and not as soft as Talib Kweli. Plus, they're angry but not too angry -- they express a mood of disenfranchisement, not one of anarchy. All of this is great -- a refreshing sense of hood politics in an age of pop-rap duets and club songs -- but it's all the greater because of 4th Disciple's production. He contributes most of the beats on this album (the first 14 tracks), and they're all stimulating, original, and dense. They're distinctly hardcore and never routine, sometimes powered by samples, other times strictly beat-driven. When you have both great raps as well as beats -- as you do here -- you have a great rap album, and Freedom of Speech certainly stands out as a surprisingly great album relative to Sunz of Man's previous albums, most of which were spotty at best. Perhaps it's the two-man effort that gives the album the focus it needs. These guys are no doubt talented, and it's nice to hear them shine without the usual overabundance of guest features. The first half of the album is especially strong. From the intro through "Baby Girl" (track nine), Freedom of Speech is wonderful; granted, it loses its focus as it winds its way toward its distant 20-track conclusion, but even the second-rate second half is above average for underground hardcore rap. A really pleasant surprise, this especially inspired album is not really representative of previous Sunz of Man efforts, but arguably the best release yet to carry the group's billing.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier