Performing Artz

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Though not nearly as well-known as some of its peers on the Lyricist Lounge tour, this Atlanta duo has a similar positive outlook and progressive, sociopolitically conscious hip-hop sound. Although the music provided by DJ/producer Tariq L at times gives Performing Artz the underdeveloped, underground hip-hop sound of a really good demo, the songs where his tracks do click with U-George's intricate, intelligent lyrics are as powerful as anything MCs like Talib Kweli and Common have done. "Storm Worldwide" matches a retro organ groove with rapid-fire rhymes that establish the Hemisphere's lyrical prowess, while "Stella!" uses Eugene the 4th's jazzy saxophone fills for a potent number that points out how the root of problems in black families often start with the parents. "Consciousness" sets forth the group's ideological manifesto, and "Time" is a flute-laden flashback featuring an island-flavored melody and guest rhymes from female MC Anjanae. At 19 songs and nearly 70 minutes, you might wish the group had trimmed its debut album down a tad, but the high points are frequent enough to showcase the Hemisphere's massive potential.

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