Guns-N-Butter / Reef the Lost Cauze

Fight Music

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An underground Philly mainstay Reef the Lost Cauze has earned his stripes with his work as part of the Army of the Pharaohs collective, countless guest spots, and two independent solo releases -- Feast or Famine (2005) and A Vicious Cycle (2008). Now on his third full-length, the aptly titled Fight Music, the hungry battle rapper comes into his own alongside production team Guns-N-Butter who provide 13 fitting beatscapes to back up the lyrical animosity. Reef lays out his M.O. well on the album's murky intro, composing a pithy two-minute blend of bleak hood imagery and wild verbal threats, claiming "I had priors before Richard, bills before Cosby/It's not comedy, I'm starving." From there, Reef is joined by Philly homies Burke the Jurke and Vinnie Paz, who characterizes himself as a "street pharmacist with more pills than Mike Jack" on the the furious head-nodder "OPG Theme," runs through an angry daily affirmation on "I'm a G," and teams up with another lesser street lyricist, Bloodsport, for the cinematic "Trigger Talk." Later on, Reef gets downright disrespectful to rap industry vets on "Bosses," commanding them to "sit your old ass down and drink some Geritol." Nonetheless, such whipper-snapper arrogance doesn't stop him from passing the mike to one of the oldest gangsta rappers of all -- the godfather of East Coast mafioso rap, Kool G Rap -- on the extraordinary three-the-hard-way anthem "Three Greats" with R.A. the Rugged Man. Fight Music's energy level only seems to increase as the track list carries on, wrapping up with two of its best songs -- the aggressive "What We Rep," which sees Reef and QB's own Big Noyd going back and forth over a finely crafted interplay of horn sections and string arrangements, and the mournful "Sun," which has Reef turning sensitive as he speaks to loved ones who have experienced loss. From start to finish, there's scarcely a snoozer on Fight Music; it's a sonically cohesive street-hop effort which should surely raise Reef's stock among hardcore rap fans.

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