"Masters Of The Dark Arts" is a sinister, happily violent detour from the pop-centric.
There's no need to look much further past the title to get a feel for La Coka Nostra's latest. Ill Bill, Slaine, Danny Boy, DJ Lethal, DJ Eclipse and company unabashedly mosh in Hip Hop's seedier side with their second full-length, Masters Of The Dark Arts, a sinister, happily violent detour from the pop-centric. It's a sound that's a bit out of vogue next to contemporary fare, and for the most part, absolutely appreciated.
Cypher rhymes abound on MOTDA, but the narratives are the reason to reach for the rewind button. In "Letter to Ouisch," DJ Lethal and Ill Bill concoct a haunting escapade seemingly designed to entice Ozzie Osbourne to devour the head of another bat. "Remember Dennis Wilson / Too Bad he drowned / He was there when I put acid in your daddy's mouth," raps Bill, reminiscing to Charles Manson's one-time accomplice. "I took it from the House of Paine to the House of Slaine," Danny Boy spits on "Creed Of The Greedier" (produced by Sicknature), a foreboding foray into greeds universality. Slaine delves into his relationship with his ex-wife, Erica, while riding DJ Lethal's rumbling theme music to a dive-by to perfection on "The Story Goes On," while Bill's ode to his Uncle Howie just might be MOTDA's most visceral verse:
"His father died young / Never knew him to shield him from the rain / Started shooting heroin at fourteen to numb the pain / Track marks similar to tattoos tell the story of a sad fool / Tragic monologue of a man whobecame a victim of half truths and whispered secrets / His own inner demons / Syringes and lesions / Crackpipes and binges on weekends led to benders and blackouts that last for seasons / For no apparent reason / Never had children / He was a child in a man's body / Found joy in the thrill of the street and crack parties / Robbing drug dealers, selling dope, selling soap / Locked in the belly of the beast where the felons roam / Gift of gab, quick witted with a clever soul / Couldn't keep him from catching a buck 50 in his dome / Matter fact, more like 250, too shifty / His name was Howie, but on Rikers Island he was 'Gypsy.'"
Cosigns from DJ Premier, Statik Selektah, and Sean Price ("Mind Your Business," "My Universe," and "Electronic Funeral" respectively) fortify MOTDA. Laborious offerings like "Snow Beach" and "Murder World" dry hump too close to stock 1990s mediocrity. Over the course of 51 minutes, redundancy unfortunately sinks into the ethos. But that's the risk with any sonically specific endeavor. Those engulfed in the mood will undoubtedly float in the gravity of the moon. For the rest, it's hit and miss.