Artist: Hell Razah
“My 16 bars they study in synagogues . . cause I ain’t tryna be J, Pac, Nas or Biggie Smalls,” Hell Razah asserts in Thankful. Need he say more?
Cause this is why he’s hot. . While everybody else is tryna be somebody else, Hell Razah is underground being a somebody else. So there might be some truth to his self-proclamation as the “most underrated MC in the game.”
Hailing from the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, Hell Razah who is best known for his integral role as a member of the late 90’s Wu-Tang Clan spin-off group Sunz of Man, has officially dropped his debut album, The Renaissance Child. He has spent years in the game, having worked alongside artists such as Wyclef Jean and Marseilles France’s own IAM; and he’s been featured on projects for former Wu wordsmiths Ghostface Killah, Method Man, and Killah Priest. But now Hell Razah aka Heaven Razah is rising out of lames to step out on his own.
In the opening track, Buried Alive, Hell Razah proclaims “we don’t live life, we survive it,” as he recants his hell stories of the business. Although it’s not the strongest opening production-wise, the message is solid, as Razah ends by taunting those who tried to hold him up. Following in the essence of Buried Alive are Renaissance (“I don’t bite, I don’t need anyone to ghost-write”) and Glow (“Let me hear a rhyme not about crime or fighting arms”); both kept my head nodding, but really didn’t do much for me, although they carry their weight by delivering some much needed messages.
Hell Razah’s quick wit and sharp tongue are the main appeal of this album and he reserves his real fury for his social commentary. On Smoking Gun he taunts that “If you were looking for that smoking gun, I would ask dick Cheney where he get it from? I would ask Smith and Wesson to make me one” while on Millennium Welfare Hell Razah shyts ‘em asking, “how records you gon make about sittin on rims? We grown men, step up your game and drop gems. .” And it is blatantly obvious that he has a chip on his shoulder about racism, referencing slavery themes throughout the album (sometimes subtlety and other times he literally beats you with it-yup all that pun intended). This is especially demonstrated on Runaway Sambo.
This album really didn’t get to me, however, until Project Jazz, which in my opinion is one of the best hip-hop tracks I’ve heard this year. The production of this track is so sick with a seamless saxophone loop over a fifties-style organ and guitar groove. Kweli was such a good touch. Chain Gang is a damn Black History Month lesson in and of itself. Fidel Castro. Malcolm X. Nate Turner. Sojourner Truth. Harriet Tubman- how’s that for namedropping, Hov? (I could barely keep up).These individuals, who “dedicated to soldiers who died for the truth rather than the lie,“ are the people that today’s generation should idolize and learn from. Lost Ark is a classic definition of what hip-hop used to be. Finally somebody who wants to talk about some real issues- our over-indulgence, our greed, our lack of concern for our fellow brothers and sisters; Razah paints a perfect picture for us. Thankful, another favorite, is the poignant and perfect ending.
This album reminds me of modern day YO! MTV Rap playlist- equal parts stuntin’ and knowledge droppin’. And this is definitely a refreshing change from our normal bullshyt.
The production on album is nothing to be overlooked, rivaling some of the best albums heard in recent years. The line-up featuring Krohme; Dirty Needlz; Dev. 1; Fabrizio Sotti; M.F. DOOM; 4th Disciple; Bronze Nazareth; DJ Battle; Smokeshop Productions; Shuko is simply phenomenal (even though, Musical Murdah sounds like a J-Dilla produced track with the woodwinds and synthesizer). Having studied music (that’s Holiday and Monk through second British wave, not a “beats for dummies guidebook”), I appreciate the musicianship displayed on this album. Yea, Razah still got plenty of samples in here, but they are utilized in a way that a real musician can appreciate them.
I don’t know if I would go as far as to call him the “Jesus of Brooklyn,” but this album is a must have for real hip-hop head.