Lawless Element

Soundvision: In Stereo

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Despite their name, hip-hop duo Lawless Element don't spend much time rocking the gangsta pose. Detroit cousins Magnif (Kavary Capsico) and Griot (Alfred Austin) are only in their early twenties, but there's a satisfyingly old-school feel to their debut album. In particular, DJ and producer Magnif has no compunctions about acknowledging his musical roots: samples from A Tribe Called Quest and other golden age acts are skillfully weaved throughout Soundvision: In Stereo, not in the obvious, hook-biting way of a P. Diddy, but more subtly, as a sort of commentary on the duo's own songs. Magnif's beats tend toward a jazzy mid-tempo quality, and he's particularly fond of old-fashioned organ sounds like the ones that bolster the soulful "One Night" (one of two tracks featuring R&B vocals by Melanie Rutherford). Unfortunately, Magnif's vocal partner, Griot, isn't up to his cousin's game: though he's an adequate rapper with a decent flow, his rhymes are a whole bunch of nothing special, riffling through the usual topics with occasional wit but no real insight. Matched with a more agile rapper, Magnif could create an album that lives up to his handle, but Soundvision: In Stereo is no more than promising.

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