Filed under: Album Reviews
Although my sensibilities lie firmly in the east, I’m trying to open my mind a little bit to stuff from the other side of the US in an attempt to expand my hip hop palette. Despite ‘At The Speed Of Life’ being a relatively high profile release, I only got a hold of it the other day and have been so impressed with it that I thought I’d throw it up almost immediately. To be fair, I feel like I’m cheating a little on the ‘broadening my horizons’ front here, as although Xzibit hails from California, there is no denying that this album is musically closer to counterparts from the five boroughs than from the so-called ‘City of Angels’. Still, it’s a step towards branching out a little bit, and I’m happy to be so pleasantly rewarded. Who knows, I may be bumping some low-riding, gun-toting G Funk before the year is out…
As an affiliate of the Likwit Crew with King Tee and The Alkaholiks, the east coast influence found in this album is hardly surprising as both of the aforementioned artists also lean towards a more New York oriented sound. Indeed, it also seems significant that this was released by Loud, who traditionally had always handled the business of those representing those on the Atlantic coastline. Favourite cuts for me at this stage are ‘Eyes May Shine’ which incorporates some sweeping strings with heavy drums to produce a serious banger, and this is followed by ‘Positively Negative’ which continues in the same rugged vein with a verse from King Tee to add to the lyrical side of the track. Diamond D’s contribution ‘Bird’s Eye View’ is also solid and as with ‘Positively Negative’ benefits from guestspots, this time from J-Ro and Tash of The Liks. Although I don’t feel like I know the album inside out yet, the overall impression I am left with is that the production is pretty consistent from start to finish, and I had no problem in giving the album a full listen through straight out the blocks.
I also enjoy Xzibit’s work on the mic, which is characterised by his deep voice and raw delivery. The content of his verses is relatively standard, but there is an intelligence here that means his street narratives work well (perhaps ‘The Foundation’ is one of the best examples where he details the struggles of street life by relaying the information to his son). It seems like ‘Paparazzi’ is often cited as the standout cut, but X’s brutal dismantling of those artists in it for the money feels a little ridiculous now given his current profile in the game: ‘Pimp My Ride’ ain’t exactly street level.
All in, I have been genuinely impressed with this release and I regret sleeping on it due to my irrational prejudices against the west. This is gritty, rugged hip hop that easily stands up against east coast releases of the era, and it goes down as another quality release from the Likwit Crew that is opening my eyes to the west in more depth. If you’re sleeping like I have been then who knows, it may do the same for you.