Illegal

The Untold Truth

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If the message of "Head or Gut," the walloping, maniacal Erick Sermon-produced first single from The Untold Truth, isn't transparent enough, here's the translation: unless you're feeling lucky, stay away from these hip-hop moppets. Or, to put it another way: Had it come down to a back-alley brawl with these guys, Kris Kross definitely would not have come out on the other side still jumping. Lovable little foundlings Illegal were not at the time they made their first and lone album. If you ignored Jamal and Malik's words, the duo almost could have come across like cartoon characters, but go beneath the pre-pubescent voices and you certainly don't find PG, Saturday-morning sentiments. They were the "stick-up kids" that Gang Starr once had warned us about. (And emphasis on the "stick-up," not on the "kids.") On The Untold Truth they sound as if they would just as soon smoke you as look in your direction. Hardcore posturing aside, though, the album has a whole lot going for it. Even at their tender ages, Illegal already had the attention of a list of genuine heavyweights: Sermon, Diamond D., Lord Finesse, Biz Markie, and Dallas Austin (who oversaw the entire project) all produce tracks, and the grimy sonic scenery they put behind the visceral--if frighteningly, preternaturally violent--street stories of the pair is a perfect fit. There is nothing as great as "Head or Gut" on the rest of the album, but most of the music does not trail too far behind in quality, particularly "Illegal Will Rock," "Understand the Flow," and "On Da M.I.C."

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