The Family Tree

Tree House Rock

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All Natural label head Capital D (along with his DJ partner Tone B. Nimble) compiled this sampler of like-minded MCs from Chicago's hip-hop underground, but it unfortunately lacks his own sharp short-storytelling, best demonstrated on the excellent 2002 album Writer's Block (The Movie). His contributions to this collection instead lapse into sloganeering, particularly on "Move," which simply reiterates the usual lefty talking points about education, war, and other issues. However, the five other rappers -- including, in a relative rarity for posse albums, a female, Rita J -- do their best to pick up the slack with battle rhymes that focus more on putdowns than profanity; in the hands of Spotlite and Mr. Greenweedz, the Tree's approach bears particularly tasty fruit on the standout track, "Chums," as rivals are castigated as "sadomasochist(s)/takin' lashings from the tongue." Backed by chunky, soul-drenched beats that show the real roots of this Family Tree -- the Native Tongue rappers of the early '90s -- Tree House Rock ends up sharing that movement's good-natured, hippieish appeal.

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