“For thousands of years power polluted people
Now a trusted brand stands amongst the madness bringing you the sequel”
“A trusted brand” is a fitting description for La Coka Nostra. When it concerns Ill Bill, Slaine, Danny Boy and DJ Lethal, nobody is expecting radio-friendly hit records, you know what you’re gonna get and what you’re gonna get is raw tracks. On the previous album those were interspersed with some additional blues sounds, thanks to former group member Everlast, but this time around everything is simply filled to the brim with bombastic boombap.
These guys have their way of making that work though, as evidenced by the orchestral ‘The Story Goes On,’ the menacing ‘Creed of the Greedier’ and the title track, filled with dramatic choirs and strings. The kind of songs that make you pull a hoodie over your ears while ducking deeper into your heavy winter coat and setting the volume on the headphones to your portable music player a couple notches higher. Tracks that make even the most peaceable hippie-soul want to strap on some Timberland boots and trudge his way straight through his floral arrangements so he cab slap a tambourine out of your palms. The kind of tracks for gruesome days. Commercially not the most fitting release for the middle of the summer, but that doesn’t seem to be a criterion for these guys anyway. Winning over souls is work for other acts, people that have any familiarity with how how La Coka Nostra sounds will once again feel far from cheated.
That does mean the album is fairly one-sided and causes you to press the skip button after the first couple of spins, getting to the album’s highpoints. There’s little room for personal insights (or you’ll have to take various referrals to conspiracy theories like that) and with the exception of Ill Bill, who weaves autobiographic elements into ‘Letter To Ouisch’ and describes the life of his (in)famous uncle Howie in the aforementioned ‘The Story Goes On,’ the subjects rarely stray from violence, drugs and death. When the group does this to the pounding and overwhelming beats that have come to be known as their signature sound this is not much of a problem, but when those delivering the soundscapes take their foot off the pedal for a quieter sound, like on ‘Electronic Funeral,’ not even a good Sean P guest appearance can save the track from drowning amidst its more energetic counterparts.
“Surprising” or “varied” aren’t terms one would describe Masters of the Dark Arts with, but a refreshingly straight forward and hard knocking album it is nonetheless. Hip-hop has often become unrecognizable from the rebellious street music it once was, and its provocative elements are too often encapsulated in overproduced pop tunes and slick singing. La Coka Nostra proves there is still room on the other side of rap’s spectrum. Kicking hard for the sake of kicking and with the nuance of a chainsaw, they again deliver an album perfectly suited for pestering your neighbors. Music that sounds best when the meters are up in the red, you can trust this brand to deliver that.