Hall of Justus

Soldiers of Fortune

posted November 10, 2006 10:30:42 AM CST | 9 comments

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Since 2001, the Justus League has given North Carolina some of the most attention it's ever received outside of basketball. Franchise trio Little Brother--emcees Phonte and Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder--has been dubbed by backpackers and critics alike as the new millennium version of classic alternative acts like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, while 9th has sold his sample-driven backdrops to everyone from Jay-Z to Destiny's Child. Accordingly, these successes have drawn attention to releases by the rest of the crew's talented members, and have spawned a working relationship with New York's veteran Boot Camp Clik. With their first all-in effort, Soldiers Of Fortune, the Justus League continues their good run while releasing a perfect introduction to all of its representatives.

Little Brother expectedly churns in two winners, but the fashion in which they deliver them is as unpredictable as Ron Artest without his medication. "Life Of The Party" sees Phonte and Pooh trading in 9th's soul samples for Nottz' see-sawing synthesizers, and "Back At It" brings street emcee Cormega along to trade punch lines over a beat by Buckwild, another new collaborator. Otherwise, the League's two most well-known members, Phonte and 9th Wonder, have noticeably limited contributions to the disc--9th Wonder offers a sparse (albeit dope) two beats to the album, and including the aforementioned LB tracks, Phonte only has three appearances. Fortunately, other proven group members handle the slack by alternating between sturdy solo displays like Joe Scudda's "Secret" and harmonious joint efforts like Big Pooh and L.E.G.A.C.Y.'s "Basic." In-house producer Khrysis also continues to earn his keep and battle 9th for the crew's "Best Producer" title, lacing an epic-sounding down-the-line joint with "Tour Of Duty" and bleak, melancholy strings for the duo of Chaundon and L.E.G.A.C.Y. as The Embassy on "Seeing Is Believing," plus five other tracks.

While not as strong as the team veterans, JL newcomers also hold down Soldiers Of Fortune respectably. Lyricist Jozee Mo spits charismatic braggadicio on both the solo joint "Feelings" and the Pooh-assisted "Try Me Again," while relieving stress with Sean Price and singer Kal Royal on "Tired." Newly-installed resident beatmaker E. Jones backs Scudda, Chaundon and Phocuz with multi-layered heat on "Moving Fast," and though he's not an official Justus League member, affiliate Skyzoo contributes highlights with his own "S-K-Y" and various cameo verses.

While certain tracks on the disc aren't as good as the others, Soldiers of Fortune is void of blatant wack moments and full of material to hold you over until new releases from Little Brother, 9th Wonder and the rest of the members. On "Life Of The Party," Phonte spits, "We all on one page, we all on one accord." And their harmony equals audible bliss.

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