Treading the line that MCs like MF Grimm and Jedi Mind Tricks' Vinnie Paz helped make sturdy, C-Rayz Walz blends braggadocio with social consciousness and violence, using dark and ominous RZA-inspired guitar-heavy beats to emphasize and reinforce the intensity of his rhymes. On his third full-length, 1975: Return of the Beast, written and recorded shortly after his brother's death, these themes weigh heavily and dictate the pace and direction of the album. As a lyricist, Walz is skilled and literate, able to move from the love and hate of the Addrisi Brothers-sampled "Addiction" to the angry boasting of "Lifetime" or "Classic" to the importance of hip-hop in "Drug in My Vein." Guest MCs, few of whom are credited (or identify themselves), are scattered across the album, and provide a nice contrast to Walz's nasally voice and steady delivery, and the beats, supplied by a few little-known producers, are generally simple but engaging and appropriate. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems in the mixing, with poor transitions or abrupt mid-sentence cutoffs between tracks disrupting the overall flow of 1975, and giving the record an almost mixtape feel, despite the fact that it's a proper release. The MC's intricate, witty rhymes help make up for this ("Scanning for gardening tools, rake in the dough/With the whole world watching my back like J Lo," "Smoke and suck butt, no pun intended/And I'm trying to get big in the Bronx, pun intended"), but other times, like in the corny (if anger and spite and indignation can be corny) Judgment-Day-conversation-with-God closer, "The Last Cypher," the mistakes only ring clearer, a regrettable way to end an otherwise powerful album. Still, it's clear C-Rayz Walz has a lot to say, and that can't be covered up in technical (or occasional lyrical) errors. For all its faults, 1975: Return of the Beast shows this off well.
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown