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Years after Mastamind debuted on Natas' initial album in 1992 and saw his solo debut on the impressive Lickkuidrano EP in 1995, he finally returned with his first full-length, Themindzi, a surprising album that moves away from the rapper's work in Natas This departure isn't necessarily a bad thing, though; in fact, it's somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Had he returned with an album similar to his work on Lickkuidrano, it would sound quite outdated, since Esham wore that style out with his numerous 1990s albums. (Granted, die-hard fans nostalgic for the original acid rap sound would probably savor the style's return.) Instead, on Themindzi Mastamind carves out a unique style all his own -- just as hardcore as Natas and just as eerie as Lickkuidrano, yet also quite original. The production varies from bare piano-driven beats ("RLP") to near-techno-styled beats ("Reckless") to everything in between. In fact, it owes little to any conventional style -- not the drum machine-ridden and synth-heavy Dirty South sounds; not the sampladelic, clean-cut New York hip-hop sounds; not the poppin'-collar G-funk Cali sounds; and not the rock-sample-laced early-'90s Esham sounds. This fresh approach makes it an intriguing listen, even if some of the rhymes and some of the beats admittedly aren't that effective. Just being able to sit back and listen to Mastamind craft his own unique style with confidence is engaging enough to make this a worthwhile album. Similar to how Natas' WWW.Com album successfully headed into new territory, Themindzi foreshadows a sound soon to be co-opted by biting producers and MCs.

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