Filed under: Album Reviews
There is at times a tendency within hip hop circles to hold up a little known underground gem and to label it ‘classic material’. I can’t help but feel that this is sometimes misplaced and occurs due to the deterioration of the genre in recent times and the subsequent searching for quality music from the past. This can push objectivity to one side. Having said this, albums can live up to the hype. Although I am not 100% convinced that ‘The Natural’ necessarily warrants the ‘classic material’ tag, I believe that it is as close as some of these sort of albums can come.
First up is the production. With Buckwild and Da Beatminerz on the boards and the year being ’95, you can be pretty sure that the beats will be on point. They don’t disappoint. ‘Masta I.C.’ is a beautifully put together cut with some tasty sleighbells; ‘Time To Build’ is aggressive and extremely hard-hitting and ‘Sharane’ has an excellent opening 16 or so bars which build the beat up subtly and with a serious head noddy vibe. Some of the beats lack that quality that gives you that warm mushy feeling inside, but generally the production is flawless.
The rhymes ain’t bad either. Mic Geronimo isn’t the most intelligent or charismatic of MCs, but he has a nice flow that works well with the beats. There are also some very well delivered guest spots. ‘Time To Build’ is strong vocally throughout, but the Jay Z verse is a pleasing early glimpse at the man who has had such success in the commercial market. I’m not sure who features on the fourth verse of this particular cut, but it is one of the roughest, grittiest verses that I have ever heard. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you are in the mood it is truly sensational.
However, like so many albums of the era it could be said that there is something indefinable missing here. Nothing substantial, but something that stops it reaching the heights of the true classics of the era like ‘Illmatic’. As I have said before, the difference is not definable in discussion… but there is a difference. Don’t let this put you off: this is a quality album that you will come back to on repeated occasions, and some of the highlights are excellent examples of the strength of the genre at this stage in its development.