“This is dedicated to the hardworker. . . ”
The path hasn’t necessarily been straight for West Coast indie rapper Defari (pronounced Deaf-r-i), but the destination hasn’t changed. His past credits have included headlining The Underdogs of Hip Hop National Tour alongside Xzibit and Phife, with features on the Anger Management Tour, and the Up In Smoke Tour. Collaborations with Dr. Dre, Evidence (Kanye West), E-Swift (Tha Alkaholiks), Dilated Peoples, and B Real (Cypress Hill) have only further pushed him into notoriety.
Defari began his music career in the early 80’s as a DJ, but within a few years realized his own gift for the word and began emceeing. Starting out with Tommy Boy, he moved to High Times for the release of his sophomore effort, “Odds and Evens.” As a result of his hard work, he’s sitting at the forefront of a new movement in West Coast rap with his latest effort, Street Music. With famed independent hip-hop label ABB Records at his backing, Defari has already taken the West Coast and Europe by storm, while remaining poised to break into the American Southern and East Coast markets.
Street Music is a sixteen track compilation ferociously introduced with a tiger growl sound-bite. From jump, Defari proclaims his unwavering involvement with the West Coast music scene: “Hip-hop is the shit and my foot’s all in it.” How you can argue with that? “Congratulations” paints a perfect picture of his own experience in the rap game, from international acclaim to his old-school roots; while “Burn Big” has the feel of a mid-90s laid-back, old G classic.
The lead single, “Make My Own” featuring Evidence, is decent, although I was more impressed by the production than its lyrical substance; the Alchemist has created a classic mid-tempo track laced with some powerful female vocals. Content-wise, I’m really feeling “Either Dead Or In Jail” featuring Tuffy and Boo Capone; they are speaking some truths about the lives of black men in the hood and their perspective leaves much to be appreciated. Peace and Gangsta” is another respectable track, helping vitesse on the mic. In contrast, tracks like Hardworker, feature Defari’s Mase-esque flow, both lazy and monotonous; these tracks tend to drag on and are damn-near like spoken-word pieces. The Clowns and The Bizness are album fillers, with samples serving as peculiar odes to Old Blue Eyes; while West West fails on the insipidness of the background vocals.
Even with the production talents of producers such as the Alchemist, E-Swift, and Mike City, Street Music fails to make a strong impression on me; the tone of this album remains too constant. Dafari becomes comfortable with his sluggish flow that every line tends to become monotonous. His voice is emotionless and most of the production is equally heavy and dark; if anything, a track order change-up is in need to vary the flow of the album. Despite his originality, Defari remains in the hold of the West Coast rap formula: Drugs+ Street Life+ Beat=Street Music. Defari declares this himself on Congratulations: “This that street music, that roll a blunt music that pack a blunt music. .” Where are the love songs? Where’s the grown and sexy? Where’s the feel-good joint? Even if this is an indie record, there’s no excuse. Sixteen tracks revolving around the same themes is draining, so in my opinion this album would be a hard sell in the East or the South. All in all, this is an average endeavor for a season vet. Currently on a tour, Defari is spreading his Street Music to the unsuspecting masses.