Never let it be said that Everlast doesn't know how to keep folks guessing. First, he started out as a solo rapper with his debut album, Forever Everlasting. Then, he became a much bigger name in hip-hop after forming House of Pain with Danny Boy and DJ Lethal in 1992. And after House of Pain's breakup, Everlast resumed his solo career with 1998's introspective Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, an exceptional album that found him both singing and rapping and exploring everything from folk-rock to Memphis soul to metal (as a singer, Everlast sounds a bit like Gil Scott-Heron). More solo albums followed, none of which were strictly hip-hop. That brings us to La Coka Nostra, a hardcore rap group that reunites Everlast with Danny Boy and Lethal, and also includes Slaine (of Boston's Special Teamz) and Ill Bill (of Non Phixion fame). Unfortunately, there have been many examples of all-star groups failing to live up to their hype, but La Coka Nostra excel on A Brand You Can Trust. It stands to reason that an outfit that includes all three of House of Pain's ex-members would have a strong House of Pain influence, although this 2009 release isn't an exact replica of that popular '90s group. Actually, the approach on A Brand You Can Trust is probably best described as House of Pain by way of Cypress Hill, with a rock influence at times and occasional hints of Everlast's post-Pain solo output -- and one of the appealing things about this CD is the way it has both a sociopolitical conscience and a sense of raucous fun. House of Pain's boisterous, in-your-face attitude (as well as their cleverness) is alive and well throughout this album, but some discussion of social and/or political issues finds its way to "Nuclear Medicinemen," "The Stain," "Soldier's Story," and a few other tracks. A Brand You Can Trust doesn't have as consistently serious and contemplative a tone as Everlast's eclectic solo efforts of the late '90s and 2000s -- overall, this album is more concerned with having some raucous fun than it is with trying to save the world -- although that sociopolitical element is still an attractive side dish. No one who has spent a lot of time listening to House of Pain or Cypress Hill will find A Brand You Can Trust to be groundbreaking, but this is an exciting listen nonetheless. A Brand You Can Trust is one all-star album that doesn't disappoint.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson