Ink Is My Drink

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When most people think of geographic hip-hop traditions, they think first of the East Coast and the West Coast and then probably the South, and possibly, possibly the Midwest. Few will name the D.C./Virginia/Carolina region, an unfortunate omission, because that section of the country, whose hip-hop combines the warmth of the South with the introspection of the East, has produced a large number of talented MCs and producers, especially those in the underground realm. Most famous would be North Carolinians 9th Wonder and his group Little Brother (who are part of the larger Justus League), but the D.C. area has also been turning out some pretty interesting records, including Kenn Starr's Starr Status and Oddisee's Foot in the Door (both artists are in the Low Budget crew, which is associated with Halftooth Records). Another group to hail from the capital is Panacea, comprised of producer K-Murdock and MC Raw Poetic, who, on their debut album, Ink Is My Drink, blend Native Tongues-inspired beats with warm major chords and soul samples and add smart, conscious rhymes about life, love, and of course, hip-hop. Raw Poetic's a talented rapper, with a smooth, clean delivery that moves from quick-paced syncopation into singsongy hooks fluidly. "Before you pick up guns..../Pick another product to sell/Pick up your people like fam when they not doing well/Like mothers at funerals when they going through hell," he spits on "Steel Kites," backed nicely by looped flutes and strings and plenty of scratches and drums. "Burning Bush" uses an electric guitar and spacy keyboards and is probably the most overtly political track on the whole album, but Raw Poetic has a way of getting his point across without sounding preachy or mad. Even when he calls out the haters on "Reel Me In" with the hook "Found that my way/To be breaking the way/They see me is to tell them 'f*ck off y'all,'" it's used more as a way to reassure and encourage himself than to anger others, and in "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" he takes equal responsibility for the failure of a relationship, settling for a kind of resignation instead of bitterness or resentment toward the woman. Toward the end of the album, the beats lose a bit of their exceptionality, but this is only in respect to how interesting they could be, and in fact are (the exceptions being "These Words" and "Ecosphere"), because as a whole, Panacea manages to capture the vibe and feel of the underground D.C. sound in a way that is still unique, making Ink Is My Drink a good, intelligent record that should be listened to by any fan of hip-hop.

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