posted January 30, 2008 11:33:51 AM CST | 13 comments

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Hailing from the home of the Terrapins (that's Maryland, for those of you who are geographically challenged), Substantial is here to bring the fun back to hip hop. It's rare to see any emcees coming out of the Old Line state these days, let alone from Prince George's County; nevertheless, Substantial is one PG emcee you'll be glad you looked up.

Sacrifice kicks it off with "Let It Go," in which Substantial's lyrics showcase the desperation of the daily grind: "'Life is what you make it' is the motto I follow/Hard to slow your roll when you been livin' full throttle/Tryin' to make my dreams manifest with this is hard though/Feel like I've got a better chance of hittin' the lotto/See the blood, sweat and tears stained on my cargos/" Don't be fooled by the lyrical content, though; the song, like most of this album is very upbeat and enjoyable - a refreshing change in a genre that constantly takes itself far too seriously.

Substantial's emceeing and lyricism is on full display as he coasts through "That Damn Good" and "Chain Reaction" in a seemingly effortless fashion. "My Favorite Things" takes a twist on the old show tune and turns it into one of the more clever dedications to Hip Hop. "4dozdatdonkno" is the album's only glaring misstep, as it contains less charisma than any of the other tracks on Sacrifice, and doesn't really seem to belong. This small departure is quickly forgotten, however, as things pick right back up with It's You (I Think)/Go Wait (Interlude), and don't stop until the album closes out.

I cannot stress enough how great the production is on this album. Now, I know it's difficult to think of anything that isn't littered with club bangers as having good production, but follow me for just a second, folks. From the second you press play until the moment the album ends, Sacrifice treats you to a wide range of sounds that'll take you outside of your head for a spell. The jazzy sounds found on "Let It Go" and "U Can Get It/This Instrument," coupled with the more soulful "That Damn Good" and "It's You (I Think)/Go Wait" are the sort of tracks you could vibe to on a long drive. There's even some good old-fashioned funk on "Resurrection of the House Party" that'd be a welcome addition to any playlist as a house party.

The whole idea of sacrifice is that it's much like most other things in this life - it's what you make of it. It could be the sacrifices you make whilst in the pursuit of the almighty dollar; it could be the sacrifices you make to pursue your dreams; for Substantial, sacrifice is the things he has given up for the pursuit of his musical craft. Like he rhymes on the bonus track "Sacrifice" (which features DJ Kool Herc), "Nothin' in life come easy, 'cept God-given talent/When these hard times got a brother feelin' violent/I think 'bout the sacrifices made/To help me reach the point that I'm standing at today" The result of those sacrifices is an album that will surely not be a disappointment to anyone smart enough to cop it.

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