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In an industry where lengthy album delays are quite common, Fredericton/Halifax hip-hop group First Words were no match for this common vice. Originally hyped for release in December 2003, the group consisting of 2 emcees: Sean One & Above and 2 DJs: Jorun and STV, have made the wait worthwhile with the July release of their debut self-titled album.
Although it is the group's debut album, they are no strangers to hip-hop. Sean One & Above first began rapping out of Saint John, NB as part of the Vet Cru back in the late nineties and Sean One has since put two solo albums under his belt. Jorun aka emcee Francisco Bombay is one of Atlantic Canada's most heralded hip-hop producers and might just be the most legendary in this region having worked with Buck 65, Sixtoo and others. He formed his first hip-hop group in 1986, a group that has morphed into today's MuchMusic Video Nominated group, 'Universal Soul.' DJ STV originally started out as an emcee 'King Cash' back in the mid eighties, but shed his rhyme book nearly ten years ago in favor of turntables.
These many years of combined experience make for an impressive debut. Jorun comes through with timeless beats, lacking of bling bling shine and leaving you with days of enjoyment, much as he did with Universal Soul's debut album. Sean One provides gritty verses, as Above comes through with a crisp delivery. Lyrically, the DJs pick up the microphone to provide the more impressively introspective and conscious rhymes, as Francisco Bombay raps on 'funkahmachine':
"I know cats that rhyme their ass off until they bleed / but complain they don't have the resources they need / to produce a beat so their rhymes can be freed / then proceed to spend their whole paycheck on weed / here's some advice you and yours have got to heed / don't grow the fruit if you cannot water the seed."
Several songs suffer from a lack of cohesion lyrically. Similar to groups like the Oddities, a greater number of artists involved on each track make it difficult to maintain a common theme and spread a single message. However, each artist does provide a solo track, but with the exception of Jorun, this consists of only a single verse. On 'One is the Same', Sean One, a self-confessed "man of the year," isn't afraid to expresses his arrogance/confidence as he's "spitting harder than any bullshittin clown." On 'Minds Get Twisted,' Above lays down some genuine raps expressing his fear of rejection and blunt honesty. DJ STV's solo track has him laying down the chorus with a nice selection of cuts, and spitting a refreshingly personal verse.
'Right Here' is one of my favorite tracks as Jorun steals the best beat for his rapping alter ego Francisco Bombay. The solo track has a great intro, tight verses with nice blows and metaphors, but unfortunately the chorus comes off weak. 'No Mas' has a great intro with 'Shit Skit,' and features a couple of tightest verses from Sean One and Jorun. The whistling sample and choice vocal cuts on 'Gotta Stand For Something,' along with the back-and-forth rapping of Sean and Above, makes this another impressive track.
Having heard a handful of the album's songs over a year ago and seen them performed 5-10 times, it's admittedly difficult to listen to First Words with a fresh ear. The album lacks a good mastering job, which results in jumps in volume level and static, but it remains an enjoyable listen. However, the bottom line is that Jorun's beats alone make this album a must have for any fan of underground hip-hop.www.brockwayent.com
(Originally posted on HipHopCanada.com)
This review was written August 7, 2004
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