Squirrel And The AcesArtist:
Any time a solo MC puts out an album that features guest MC's on 80% of the songs, they run the serious risk of getting overlooked on their own album. This risk is even greater if the MC in question is relatively unknown. Justus League representative Cesar Commanche is taking this risk with his new album Squirrel and the Aces. Like the rest of the Justus League, Cesar hails from North Carolina, and he's recruited NC's finest underground MC's and producers to help on this one. The blowing up of Little Brother has allowed them to share the spotlight with their North Carolina brethren, and Cesar Commanche has taken that opportunity to release his third album. But Squirrel and the Aces? Apparently Squirrel and the Aces was a band Cesar's parents were in during the 70's, so the name is a tribute of sorts to them. The role of Squirrel is being played by Mr. Commanche and the Aces are the multitude of guest MC's and producers on the album.
The bio I received for this album compares it to Pete Rock's Soul Survior, an album I own and enjoy. But Pete Rock has always been a producer first, and you pretty much expect any guest MC to outshine him on the mic. So how does Cesar Comanche stack up against the MC's who cameo on his album? All in all not bad I'd say. Cesar's got some charisma on the mic and an interesting, almost old school sounding voice, so he keeps your attention. Cesar doesn't freak the rocket science rhymes, he talks about everyday issues in his life like the fast life of the rap game (The Life), the highs and lows of living the day to day (Up & Down with a quality guest appearance from Toronto's own Eternia), missing home on tour (Miss You with Edgar Allen Floe, classic name), and just general mic rocking (Rockin' It). The guests do a fine job lyrically as well, with Phonte and Big Pooh from Little Brother both making appearances with other Justus League reps Joe Scudda, Chaundon, and Darien Brockington. Tajai from Hiero also contributes a quality verse on Big Game Hunters.
Beatwise, this is a pretty tight album. Being Justus League affiliated, you know 9th Wonder is going to be in the mix, and he makes his mark here by producing 5 or 6 of the tracks. But 9th isn't alone, the Justus League's up and coming production talent, Khrysis contributes 3 or 4 tracks as well. The "foreign" in Foreign Exchange, Nicolay, also does a track. 9th Wonder and Khrysis have a similar style, thick, bumping drums with sampled strings and female vocal bits layered over them, so that gives the album a consistent feel on the production side. But if you aren't a fan of 9th Wonder's beats, than I'm guessing that could be a point of contention.
Don't have much negative to say about Squirrel and the Aces. All of the guests give the album sort of a mix tape feel, but that's not a big deal. Cesar's also got sort of a weird habit of doing a lounge singer style talking intro to each track, which is slightly annoying, but again, it's not really a problem. On the whole I liked this album. Didn't blow me away, but it's a solid underground album and one I would certainly choose over the latest 50 Cent or Fat Joe. If you're looking for an underground fix, check out Cesar Comanche's Squirrel and the Aces.
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