In the early 90's, a West Coast collective of artists came to be known as the Likwit Crew. While most of West had drifted towards the more popular 'gangsta rap', the Crew consisted of a much more independent list of members. Alongside Defari, party rappers of the day The Alkaholiks, producer King Tee, Xzibit and the Lootpack toured for much of 1993 to 1995 leading to Defari's demo in '95. Eventually signing to Tommy Boy Records, he released his debut album Focused Daily in 1999, which may consider his best solo work to date. After releasing an EP and the album Odds & Evens on ABB, Defari kept his pen on paper and made sure his next album was met with a similar response. He and DJ Babu formed the Likwit Junkies for an album last year which was met with some applause. Now he is back again on the solo tip, while The Liks may be hanging it up as a group: King Tee is mysteriously absent at a time when music needs him most, Xzibit is pimping rides and Defari was in the studio crafting Street Music.
It's not surprising for an independent artist to put out repeatedly good albums and go unnoticed for years, but Defari's latest should put some critics on advisory and will hopefully coax the rest of the Likwit crew out of their foxholes. While the album isn't necessarily solving world hunger with rhymes and music for the "street," Defari did get some of the Likwit family back together long enough to make some quality material. While most of the album is produced by Mike City, whose work includes many artists in the R&B/Soul category, Evidence (of Dilated Peoples), E-Swift (of the Liks) and Alchemist as well. B-Real shows up and DJ Babu makes an appearance or two. The first street single for Street Music, "Make My Own" with Evidence, sounds like a recycled Alchemist beat that's been on every Mobb Deep album out, but it's still on point.
Regardless, the rest of Street Music - specifically the choruses for each song - are tired examples of what you'd probably like to avoid. Not that I'm hoping for the "Chain Hang Low" sing-song chorus, but with Defari's quick-witted punch lines, on his best tracks his fans will suffer from the inevitable roller coaster ride of loving it, then hating it and over again. "Congratulations" is a little bit much, considering his fame in Japan is nothing to be fucked with and "Peace and Gangsta" actually challenges him with... speed. The one song I was hoping to enjoy, "Deepest Regards," was intolerable; guests like B-Real and J-Ro offer nothing new on the song and the chorus is repetitive to say the least. Like most artists right now, Defari's album is nothing new and exciting. Although it isn't an album that will have you wearing a bulletproof vest, carrying guns or starting imaginary beefs for album sales, it will remind you of a time when the entire Likwit Crew was heralded for their creativity rather than their repetitious nature.