The 2005 release of Kurupt's Against tha Grain was surrounded by drama. It was promised in early 2004 and then delayed, and it's the reunion of the snarling rapper and Suge Knight's Death Row, a label suffering a decade-long dry spell after dominating the early '90s. The album itself is strong -- well rounded and slick but with sharp teeth and a hard ghetto punch. When the album addresses the Death Row drama -- utilizing some old rhymes by the late 2Pac for "My Homeboys (Back to Back)," overusing up-and-comer, label signee Eastwood -- things slow down a bit. Front loading all your highlights isn't the greatest idea either, but they're slamming highlights and lead to the album's darker and still satisfying second half. "Throw Back Muzic '86" is the kind of ghetto-sentimental "back in the day" club banger that gets you on the radio and restores all your street-cred in one swoop. Less contrived are the venomous and completely aware "Speak on It," the bitter and tense "Anarchy '87," and the claustrophobic stomper "Deep Dishes," but "Stalkin'" takes the cake. On the track, West Coast producer Sir Jinx proves that he just isn't heralded enough by layering jump rope chanting teen girls over a loop by cult Krautrockers Can. It's a very non-Suge Knight moment, but the scrappy Kurupt might be showing him the way with this album. Against tha Grain recalls when gutter creativity and phat West Coast beats were the label's bread and butter and all the driven music steamrolled over the competition with little concern for what people -- or the boss for that matter -- were sayin'. Taking the label from here is up to Suge since there's plenty of evidence Kurupt is hungry enough to dominate with or without him and by any boot-to-the-head means necessary.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: The Dayton Family