Night Life

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Ever since rap's beginnings in the late '70s, battle lyrics have been a major part of hip-hop culture. In fact, rap has had some of the most competitive artists since bebop -- just as bop was famous for its saxophone battles of the 1940s and 1950s (Dexter Gordon vs. Wardell Gray, Phil Woods vs. Gene Quill, Sonny Stitt vs. Gene Ammons), hip-hop has been full of artists who spent much of their time rapping about their microphone prowess and dissing rival MCs. Of course, not all rap is about battling. Some MCs consider battle lyrics limited (which they are) and would rather rap about social and political issues, male/female relationships, or why they love or hate malt liquor. Regardless, battle lyrics will always be a part of hip-hop culture, and they're the main focus of Night Life. On this EP, New Jersey's Outsidaz finds countless ways to brag about their rapping skills and explain why they consider rival MCs inferior. While Night Life underscores the limitations of battle rhymes, you have to give the group credit for their technique and their often clever lyrics. These artists are saying the same thing that countless battle-minded rappers before them said -- that they're the best in their field and put the sucker MCs to shame -- but Outsidaz often find clever and amusing ways to say it. Ultimately, the storyteller approach to hip-hop holds one's attention longer than battle rhymes, which can wear thin after awhile. As Night Life demonstrates, however, microphone warfare is an art that, despite its limitations, isn't without its pleasures.

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