|Album Review: Coalmine Records - Unearthed|
Coalmine Records Presents: Unearthed
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Tupac Shakur said it best: "You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've, would've happened... or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the f--k on.” This quote from the East Coast born, West Coast rap slayer couldn't be more on point about New York's contemporary hip hop scene. Yes, many of the pioneers are either no longer with us or have faded into obscurity and yes, much of the focus within rap music has deviated from lyrics, wordplay and rhyme schemes in favour of simple messages and lavish lifestyles. But instead of acting like a crazed veteran who only listens to emcees of the Golden Age and refuses to listen to today's artists because they're not "real enough," you can take the time to support those cats who are making waves without major support from radio or dinosaur-like records labels.
Album compilations are nothing new in the world of hip hop. From America Is Dying Slowly, to Christmas on Death Row, to Soundbombing II--and if you don't think Soundbombing II is the best comp tape ever made, you're dead to me-- they're a great way of showcasing the talents of a variety of different artists with some sort of loose connection. While these albums have died down in popularity due to the rapid fanaticism of mixtapes, their relevancy within hip hop culture cannot be doubted. Coalmine Records, the Brooklyn based label that has an affinity for sharp lyrics and some good ole fashioned boom bap, has recently come out with their take on the hip hop staple, but in a time where New York has cooled off, does Coalmine Records Presents: Unearthed have a voice within the noisy environment of rap music?
What's refreshing about Unearthed is that it doesn't try to be a post-Rawkus Records revivalist tape, nor is it simply a "best of" from the past 10 years of the label's success. It's a celebration (*Rick James voice*) of the hits and unconventional, slept on tracks that deserve another spin. Unearthed plays out a hip hop dream team where your favourite acts come together for hit after hit. Want Large Professor and Kool G Rap on the same track? Royce da 5'9" and Diamond D? Apathy and Celph Titled over an Ayatollah beat? Unearthed does all of this and much, much more.
First of all, let's talk about this amazing album cover. Designed by Mike Jones (no, not Mr. 281-330-8004, although it would be nice to hear some new heat from him) it appears to take inspiration from Isaac Asimov's "The Marian Way and Other Stories" and Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet. What results is an eye catching piece of art that'll stand out from the other mundane covers in your library.
Unearthed's strength comes from not only it's track arrangement, but from Coalmine's ability to put both veterans and newer rappers together for a cohesive collection of amazing tracks. Sure, we get music from established acts like Royce , Large Pro, and Pharoahe Monch, but we also get to hear rhymers like One Dae and Rah Digga do their thing.
After a slick introduction which fuses cuts from the famous cult classic, The Warriors, with a horn heavy sample and a barrage of lethal cuts from DJ Revolution, we're treated to one of my favourite joints of 2014: "Get Down" from Pharoahe Monch. With it's banging M-Phazes production and the dizzying rhyme schemes from the lyrical phenom ( "These lyrics are laced with caffeine, peep/ how the game is diseased and poisoned/ but please understand that Pharoahe is the vaccine) it's a taste of the other 18 tracks have to offer.
And while it's a project full of gems, there are other highlights that need to mentioned. "Naturally Born" from Big Noyd, Large Professor, and Kool G Rap is the anthem for the street savvy individual, while the Royce, Skillz and Diamond D neck breaker "One for the Money" will be the backdrop for your endeavours. Of course, "Show Stoppa" from the verbal assassin El Da Sensei is a lyrical right hook with his and the Premier-esque instrumental supplied by DJ Devastate. It's a track that juxtaposes nicely with the brooding, watch-your-back jam "I'm the City" from Guilty Simpson, Boldy James, Statik Selektah, and Small Professor. Other favourites include the gully Brooklyn banger "Land of the Crooks" from Sean Price, Billy Danze, and Maffew Ragazino and the "Tried by 12" sounding remix of Blu and Nottz' "Boyz II Men" courtesy of Diamond D.
All and all, it's a project that personifies the values of the independent label and the borough that keeps on taking it. Unearthed doesn't seek the validation of every rap fan out there, but instead celebrates the love of the art by bringing together boom bap fiends in a time where the East Coast isn't exactly on top. When you buy the deluxe edition, you'll get both the mixed and unmixed versions and it'll be money well spent. Here's to 10 more years of success on the independent circuit.