If you jumped on board with their debut album, 2007’s Deep Hearted, Strong Arm Steady’s Arms & Hammers feels like a proper follow-up, but if you first experienced this West Coast trio through its popular 2010 Madlib collaboration In Search of Stoney Jackson, get ready for a serious swerve. For a taste of how drastically different this album is, jump right to the nasty “Blow My Horn.” On this track, producer Terrace Martin lays a Prince and/or the Time-influenced beat under the trio while special guest Kurupt joins in for a grand swagger-fest that’s topped off with a double-entendre title. Like the majority of the album, the cut is much more Snoop than Stones Throw, which won’t be an issue for anyone who remembers that Xzibit used to run with the crew and that SAS were launched as the 21st century’s Dogg Pound. Dig that and this varied set of West Coast street music does more than satisfy, with highlights coming in the form of the criminally minded “Klack or Get Klacked” and the “wave your guns in the air” anthem “Gangsta’s.” Featuring the Game, the booming “Trunk Music” captures that crooked Cali vibe and culture with “Go clubbing?/What for?/Parking lot pimp igniting up the sideshow.” Somehow, the leftover Madlib cut “Chiba Chiba, Pt. 2” fits right into the mix, which is especially surprising since the following “When Darkness Falls” is the big-time hip-hop power ballad in all its polished glory (DJ Khalil production, big chorus delivered by Marsha Ambrosius, plus a quick tribute to Biggie and Pac). In the end, the quite collaborative In Search of Stoney Jackson is the better album overall, but Arms & Hammers is the better SAS showcase, coming with all the thump and rumble you’d expect from an identifiably West Coast crew.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries