Boxcar Sessions

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In the 1990s, the Bay Area rap scene was full of gangsta rappers and G-funksters. But not every rapper who came from Oakland or San Francisco in the 1990s was into gangsta rap; in fact, there were plenty of Bay Area MCs who had nothing to do with that style or G-funk. Take Saafir, for example. Boxcar Sessions, the Oakland rapper's first album, favors an abstract, jazz-influenced approach to hip-hop. In terms of complexity and abstraction, Saafir's angular rapping style (which involves a lot of freestyling) is right up there with Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde, and De La Soul. Saafir is as jazzy as any of those alternative rappers, and he doesn't go for simplicity. But unlike Digable Planets or the Pharcyde, Saafir doesn't embrace a neo-hippie vibe. Many of the lyrics on Boxcar Sessions (which was produced by the Hobo Junction crew) are venomous battle rhymes; Saafir spends much of the album attacking "sucker MCs" and "player haters" in an angry, aggressive fashion. The jazz-minded tracks and the complex, abstract nature of Saafir's rapping style might remind the listener of alternative rap, but the lyrics are not neo-hippie rhymes -- Boxcar Sessions is, much of the time, a declaration of war on the rappers who Saafir places in the "sucker MC" and "player hater" categories. Obviously, battle rhymes were hardly something new in 1994; Kurtis Blow and other old-school rappers were lambasting sucker MCs 15 years before this CD came out. But Saafir finds clever, interesting ways to boast about his rhyming skills and attack rival MCs. Between Saafir's rapping style and the jazzy production, Boxcar Sessions is fairly fresh sounding.

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