Mission:

One

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    8
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This Oakland-based hip-hop unit's sound recalls groups like De La Soul and the Pharcyde with its contagious blend of sharp humor and intelligent lyrics, as MCs Raashan Ahmad and Moe Pope nimbly trade rhymes with an infectious energy that proves difficult to resist. The three-part "Homework" shows a deep knowledge of (and respect for) hip-hop history, with the group recounting a list of influences ranging from old school legends like Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions to new school crews like Brand Nubian and X-Clan. "Rockin' It" is a potent head-nodder with a simple musical backdrop that allows the spotlight to shine on the intricately syncopated rhymes, which urge listeners to "become a Mission: missionary, follow us like Grateful Dead." The group's manifesto is laid down on "Disturbing Behavior," which blasts weak, designer-pimping rappers for "keeping it real, when you should try keeping it right." And they show a serious side on the stirring "More Than You Know," which tells the struggles of a father doing his best to support a child he loves more than life itself. The tracks, which use a welcome dose of live instrumentation, fail to match the duo's impressive lyrical prowess at times, but the charisma of Mission: helps One overcome its minor underground failings.

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