Quietly - and the key word is quietly - CunninLynguists have become one of the most consistent groups in hip-hop. 15 years ago the Kentucky residents likely would have been a well known group, but today they stick to the independent scene despite their considerable appeal to the average listener out there. Appropriately, the duo plus one takes after the South's original preeminent group the Geto Boys in their constantly rotating line up. But for the second straight album, mainstays Kno and Deacon The Villain are joined by Natti.
Much like A Piece of Strange, Dirty Acres is increasingly refined and mature. The clowning around on Will Rap For Food and Southernunderground is all but gone, as are the up-tempo beats. Gone are fire filled tracks like The South, replaced by a serious and often somber tone. That isn't to say this shit is gonna make you depressed, think more the latter half of ATLiens, that type of vibe. Appropriately, Dungeon Family member and frequent Outkast guest Big Rube starts off the album with a signature spoken word piece. Rube may set it off thematically but producer extraordinaire Kno sets it off sonically with the adrenaline-filled Valley of Death.
Kentucky natives Natti and Deacon turn a critical but loving eye on their home state with K.K.K.Y., punctuated by Kno's melodic production. The producer later takes a now rare turn on the mic and addresses his own birthplace on Georgia. Again, criticism is abound as Kno takes a poignant look as the racism and bloodshed that has turned the clay red. A couple of high profile Southern lyricists stop through and bless a couple of the LP's standout tracks. Devin The Dude joins the CLs to chase the fairer sex on Wonderful, which lives up to its billing. Little Brother's Phonte Coleman is the real show stealer though, lending his usual luminous lyrics to Yellow Lines. "I cordially invite you to take a ride in my thoughts/switch memory lanes while we dream and wander and/in return I'll strip my inhibitions and go skinny dipping in your stream of consciousness."
As usual, there are a couple instrumental interludes peppered throughout for Kno to further show off his expertise behind the boards. Summer's Gone may not be noted as an interlude but clocking in at a minute and a half it isn't a full song. This is very unfortunate because the song deserves another two minutes, it feels like it ends just as soon as it gets started. The whole LP kinda gets that feel when it finishes with two of the best songs. Surely there is nothing wrong with leaving you thirsting for more, but damn, this one hurt. Those two songs in question are Things I Dream and Mexico. The former the icing on the cake here with the strings constantly building to a frantic pace and the Moody Blues sample, incredible stuff.
Dirty Acres leaves me feeling just like A Piece of Strange did; great album but I miss the "old" thugged-out-since-cub scouts CunningLynguists. Nevertheless, I'm never one to penalize a group for evolving just because I don't enjoy their new music quite as much. Especially when it's remarkable stuff. Even in their new direction - as good as it is - there is some room for improvement. Dirty Acres could use a little more dirt, a little more fire. More Valley of Death and less The Park. When tracks like The Park and Dance For Me roll around (which aren't the strongest tracks), the album tends to drag a bit. Regardless, minor qualms aside, these guys deserve your money...not just your food.