Mars Black

Stay Black

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Introducing his second album for Team Love with "We 'bout to take y'all back," Mars Black sets the stage for a trip back to the old school, when things were much simpler in the land of hip-hop. This is Mars in his comfort zone, breaking it down to basics. Sporting a lackadaisical, none-too-wordy flow reminiscent of Too Short, he recalls how things used to be back in his golden years and finds faults in the ways of the current-day game. Simple scratches and horn hits break wind over stripped-down breakbeats as he takes the classic approach, spitting lines like "Now I'm in full effect in the place to be/Black is I and I be he/E cuts the records and I MC/And rock it for y'all quite faithfully" before busting into classic chants like "Yes yes y'all and on and on/Up jumps the boogie to the break of dawn." Since the rhymes have been simplified to a fundamentalist approach, he comes across like a controlled veteran rather than an experimentalist on the hunt. This is a slight downfall, considering that a lot of the charm of Folks Music came from a willingness to take risks. It doesn't take long for the album to become monotonous, and in the times when the production strays away from the old-school style, a strange decision to incorporate violins (perhaps by Conor Oberst) renders the songs "Stay Black" and "Gangsta Gangsta" too new agey to be appealing to gangstas. In the best moments, "Hot Chick" sets a dancefloor mood as a wolf-on-the-prowl club anthem, and "Beat Biters" is a nice update on the minimalism of Boogie Down Productions, complete with computer bleeps, a children's chorus, and some wax tweaking. Unfortunately, nothing here is quite as ear-grabbing as 2004's playful "Scotch on the Rocks."

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