Chali 2na - Fish Outta Water

posted Sunday July 05 ,2009 at 04:52PM CDT | 0 comments

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When it comes down to it, the problem isn't (nor ever has been) Chali 2na's emceeing. Though not mind-boggling with the wordplay, 2na is in complete control of his craft - both in lyricism and in flow.

Jurassic 5 emcee Chali 2na [click to read] has always stood out as one of Hip Hop's most distinctive voices. As such, it's no surprise he's decided to branch out in the wake of J5's dissolution. After stellar guest spots on New Orleans jazz/funk group Galactic's From the Corner to the Block and K'naan's Troubadour [click to read], there's plenty reason to anticipate a solo outing from the deep-voiced rapper.

"Get Focused" is a fast-paced intro that sounds like it could belong on the aforementioned Galactic album, whereas "So Crazy" has a more determined and somber tone, as 2na rhymes over some menacing synths. "Comin' Thru" is where he really shines, casting off labels with oh-so-clever rhymes: "All day when I say I'm much more than some backpack crap / Intelligent Rap act, or militant black cat / ...if I ever spit irrelevant facts then that's that / And how you play the game is how the game plays you / Way true, cadence is wild style like Phase 2 / ..instant vintage, keeping the trenches / Every sentence can leave speakers defenseless / Peeking through fences and speaking bleaker than Memphis / Peaking your interests with heat-seeking intentions."

Talib Kweli [click to read] stops by for "Lock Shit Down," one of the better efforts on the album, bolstered by the Blacksmith emcee's contribution. Anthony Hamilton [click to read] adds some soul to the flute-laden "Don't Stop," while Choklate's crooning doesn't manage to be anything other than grating; but the show-stealing guest spot might just be Elzhi [click to read] on the Hip Hop tribute "When Will I See You Again," as the Detroit emcee supplies two memorable verses.

While the vocals - both by 2na and his myriad of guests - are usually on point, the production is anything but. "International" is pure cheese, sounding something like a tune from the '60s Spider-Man TV show. "Guns Up" might be the worst offender, however, as not even Damian Marley and Stephen Marley can save the track from its triteness of its poorly-conceived reggae tune. It's not all awful, though. "Comin' Thru" makes use of some serious guitar Funk, and the sitar-sounding strums on "Controlled Coincidence" are otherworldly. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough good production to offset the rest, which ranges from mediocre to bad.

When it comes down to it, the problem isn't (nor ever has been) Chali 2na's emceeing. Though not mind-boggling with the wordplay, 2na is in complete control of his craft - both in lyricism and in flow. The problem is that good or even great emceeing does not always translate into great music. Too often do the production and seemingly aimless flow of the album hold Fish Outta Water back, preventing it from being nearly as enjoyable as it could be.

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