How the West Was One
Nu Gruv Alliance
Cali Agents combines the best elements of West Coast independent hip-hoppers Rasco and Planet Asia without really combining them at all. Rasco’s powerfully bassy rumble and Planet Asia’s treble-heavy fluidity rarely play off of each other in traditional rap duo style, but this lack of coalescence emphasizes the individual rhyme skills of two talented MCs joining forces for one common aim: spit rhymes at all costs. In the title track, Rasco claims “It’s all about who can sound the illest to beats/And not how many brothas that you shot in the street.” This back-to-basics approach permeates all elements of How the West Was One without ever sounding sparse or weak. The production is a faithful imitation of the stripped-down approach of Gangstarr’s DJ Premier, adopting some of the best elements of hip hop’s golden age: lethargic piano twaddle, shoot-straight bass lines, unassuming hi-hat-heavy breakbeats, and birthing the occasional chorus purely from scratching. Other times, Cali Agents are decidedly new-school, rhyming over sing-songy keyboard stutter or tense Eastside-influenced minor-key grit. Cali Agents have an open ear to all forms of hip-hop past and present and a no-bullshit attitude to rhyming. When Rasco brags about how he “spit[s] it out straight, so you know what it means,” it isn’t merely a boast, it’s a manifesto.
Nu Gruv Alliance, 1135 Grandview, South San Francisco, CA 94080