Various Artists - East Coast Block Starz
Although this compilation strays from what 2010 blocks may be about, it boasts stellar work from Sha Stimuli and Wordspit.
The Block Starz series looks to build upon their string of successful west coast releases with their first east coast edition. East Coast Block Starz is a compilation that brings in a slew of up and coming emcees, representing everywhere from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn. The project is all or nothing. The majority of the content on the album sees emcees attempting to show how wealthy they are, with only a few tracks showing the opposite side. Swag is in full effect and the term superstar is thrown around like a football on Sundays.
East Coast Block Starz is well-polished project. The production from top to bottom is solid with few weak spots. The album is very hook friendly and one of the 18 songs will be in your head on repeat for at least a day. The album is consistent, but never teeters on the edge of being great. The selection of artists tends to stick to the standard topics in today’s Hip Hop world. Many of them pull it off with an apparent ease producing single quality tracks but as a collection the album can start to tire and feel overly repetitive. First single “Was it” by Throwback featuring Wiz Khalifa, is reaching directly for radio spins. The chorus hits all the typical cliché topics, swag, clothes, car and hoes. The song is executed fairly well, but unfortunately the radio is filled with these type of tracks by more established artists. Supastar LT, Mansion T.U.T.T, Money First and Goldo Tha Beast all follow the same blueprint of Throwback and create radio/club friendly joints that may or may not obtain their 10-15 minutes of fame.
Tracks like “How I’m Livin” by Tone Trump are catchy, and bring forth an added value to the project without adding anything inventive. Donny Goines brings forth “Bring it Forward” continuing his grind to show the world the next generation of New York’s talent. It’s dope track, from production to execution. Tracks like “New York Girls” sees Dramills reaching for spins, squandering a guest appearance by Raheem DeVaughn on a topic that Charles Hamilton covered with much more success. Quan, famous for Nas collaboration, “Just a Moment,” stops by and delivers and honest joint, “Streetz Keep Callin'.” The track starts with the emcee and his mother having a phone conversation about the emcee’s personality and the difficulty of moving forward. It’s admirable effort and with Quan’s past and troubles the track is believable. It’s a welcome break from the tales of exploiting those on the street, and sees an emcee evaluating himself and his decisions. The album's final track “Bury Me in a Brooklyn” by St. Laz had the opportunity to be one of the more catchy tracks on the album, but the poor production and awkward ad-libs on the chorus shifts the attention from the concept and lyrics to those blunders.
East Coast Block Starz does throw in a few curveballs. The ever-consistent Sha Stimuli brings forth “Now” the best cut on the album where he ironically displays his dislike for much of what the rest of the album discusses. Lyrics like “ Had a session in the stu / With some young rapper dudes / With Range Rovers and Benzes and flashy-ass jewels / And bottles inside the booth / They're doing better the you, Stimuli / But when they rapped they were trash.” Sha later contemplates, “Should I quit and sell drugs / Risk prison or keep on spitting?” An early favorite, this is easily one of the breakout verses of 2010. The lack of inventiveness on the compilation and is apparent throughout, with only Wordspit, and Sha Stimuli bringing something new to the table. Wordspit's “Poets Haiku” features a dope chorus and passionate effort from the East New York, Brooklyn emcee, and though the track seems out of place on the compilation, the effort is admirable to say the least.
The block has sonically evolved since Melle Mel famously rapped “The Message” 30 years ago. The struggle and the harsh realities that he so eloquently painted still exist and in many ways have worsened, yet the wordsmiths on East Coast Block Starz haven chosen to paint a picture of swag, wealth and pushing weight. The album very well may spawn a few hits, but the compilation's staying power has to be questioned with its devotion to today’s hot topics. With that said, the compilation has amassed a group of talented emcees. Some have already begun to inspire, while others with a little growth may indeed be Stars in the future.