BLESTeNATION

Mbugout City

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The year 2010 could arguably be described as the 26th anniversary of rap-rock. It was back in 1984 that the merging of rock guitars and hip-hop beats started with two seminal recordings: Run-D.M.C.'s "Rock Box" and the Beastie Boys' "Rock Hard," both of which helped to pave the way for all the rock/hip-hop fusion that took place in the ‘90s and 2000s. Countless alterna-rockers are incorporating hip-hop in the 21st century, but what transpires on BLESTeNATION's Mbugout City isn't rock being influenced by hip-hop -- it is hardcore rap being influenced by rock. This New York City-based trio (rappers Various and Werdplay and DJ/producer Fafu) shouldn't be lumped in with Rage Against the Machine, (hed) p.e., Limp Bizkit, or any of the other rap-metal bands that emerged in the '90s because that isn't where they are coming from on this 2010 release. Rather, Mbugout City is the work of a hardcore rap group with a serious craving for rock guitars, and there are plenty of them on tracks like "Witness," "Like It or Not," "Never Let Your Guard Down," "730 Strong," and "We'll Die." But not everything on Mbugout City is overtly rock-influenced. Some of the tunes don't have a really prominent rock guitar -- for example, the eerie "Sally," which is about the horrors of methamphetamine addiction and describes the types of things that tweakers (meth addicts) go through. Mbugout City isn't an album with a huge sociopolitical agenda, but when BLESTeNATION do address social issues on a few tracks (including "Sally" and "Don't Let Your Guard Down"), the results are engaging -- which is not to say that the rest of this 60-minute disc isn't worthwhile. Although not groundbreaking, Mbugout City is a likable reminder of the fact that rock can still have a positive effect on hardcore rap.

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