Thursday, June 14, 2007

Reviews:: Marco Polo - Port Authority

All righty, this album has been out for a month or so, and I've been meaning to review it for pretty much the entire time. I don't cover as much Canadian hip hop as I would like, and this album has a strong Canadian connection, so I wanted to make sure I talked about it eventually. On top of that, it's a good album, in fact it's been touted by more than a few people as one of the best hip hop albums released this year. I don't love it from top to bottom (one of my frequent bugaboos, the ole "this album is too long" is an issue), but I love a lot of the songs. Plus, it features the following MC's: O.C., Kardinal, Masta Ace, Ed. O.G., Large Professor, Buckshot, Kool G. Rap, and Sadat X. On that basis alone, it gets a Naedoo Thumbs Up.

Marco is a producer from Toronto who moved to NY in 2002, and he's been hard at work carving a rep since then, doing tracks for the likes of Masta Ace and the Bootcamp Click. Obviously, if you take a gander at Port Authority's guest list, you can tell Marco spreads Golden Age East Coast flavoured hip hop on his breakfast toast. Which is certainly the hip hop flavoured spread preferred here at the hill as well. This album is in our wheelhouse. Marco's production is of the straightforward Premier variety. Big drums, ample sprinklings of loops (pianos, xylophones, chimes, bells, etc), and plenty of hip hop samples scratched into the chorus. Why more people don't do production like this anymore is beyond me, but it's like changing the recipe for donair sauce. If the formula you have is so near perfect, why would you change it? That's a lot of food references for one paragraph, let's move on.

Columbus' Copywrite leads off on Get Busy with the kind of punchline-heavy battle raps he excels at. The line "Man, in 95 I thought music was losing it's touch, compared to now, that was a golden era, who would've thunk" is a good primer for the "old rap good, new rap - not so much" vibe on the rest of the album. "I'm The D.O.C. with O.C.D." is enjoyable also. Marquee with DITC vet O.C. is really just good, enjoyable hip hop. O.C. flows like a vet over the twinkling chimes on Marco's track, combine that with the classic snippets (the "yes" from My Philosphy, PMD's "freeze") and it should enough to make even the most annoying golden age purist nod along. Kardinal adds some more Canadian content with a decent performance on the anti-wack rap manifesto War.

The Gangstar vibe is felt again on the chimes & keys combo used on the Masta Ace starring Nostalgia. I believe this was the first single from the record which got people talking. I can see why, Ace is in fine form, flipping classic lines from Shan and Kane to reminisce about rap's halcyon days. Great song. Low Budget features a funky-wormish bassline and some mighty fine underground MC's. Kev Brown, Kenn Starr, Oddisee, Cy Young, and Kaimbr all do a fine job. This is probably my favorite track that features the lesser known or new-school MC's. Ed O.G. sounds good over Marco's piano stabs on Time & Place, as does Large Professor on The Radar. I like the vocal samples on the hypnotic beat for Lay It Down, but Rock Marciano's guns & ho's flow is just kind of so-so.

The beat on the G. Rap featuring Hood Tales isn't my favorite on the album, but the low-key Mobb Deep feel does seem to match G. Rap's down & dirty flow quite well. Sadat X, JuJu and AG isn't your everyday lineup for a posse track, but I think that's why I like it. Certainly having members of Brand Nubian, The Beatnuts, and DITC on one track should gain some measure of automatic approval from 90's rap heads, but this ode to the puff puff pass is a catchy track on it's own. I know zilch about Critically Acclaimed, but they do a good job on For The Future, even though the Chinese sounding strings might actually be the star on that track.

Reading through this review again quickly, it seems as though I focused almost solely on the tracks that featured the 90's legends. And to be honest, I don't have a problem with that. If it wasn't for their work on this album, would I be reviewing it? Perhaps not. Marco is a solid producer, his drums consistently have the perfect amount of the boom bappity that you want to hear, but an MC lineup like this is always going to get my attention. Unlike 90% of the mush mouth dudes that are a dime a dozen today, these guys had a presence on the mic, and it's clear when you hear them on an album like this that they still do. For that reason alone, this album is worth your time.

mp3:: Marquee feat. O.C.

mp3:: Nostaligia feat. Masta Ace

Posted at 8:04 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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