label: galapagos4
producers: dj natural, meatyogre, kid knish
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1. Intro
2. Reinventing The Wheel
3. Any Day
4. Qweloquiallisms
5. It Won't Stop
6. Snake Oil
7. Natural Causes
8. Take A Number
9. The Manhatten Project
10. Too Happy For Qwel

11. Live Forever

12. Cliché
13. What You Thought Hops
14. Thin Red Line


Typical Cats

Typical? In an era of hip-hop where emcees come a dime a dozen, and originality is the point focal of many 'underground' consumers, do you want your group to be typical? Dwell on that thought for a minute, but don't jump to any conclusions; these kids are here to prove to you that they ain't no joke. Typical Cats are composed of Qwel, Qwazaar and Denizen Kane on the M-I-C, DJ Natural on production and turntables, and Kid Knish on the 'essential spice and marination'. All five hail from Chicago Illinois, a city that has a permanent place on hip-hop's map of freshness (trust me, it does exist). Denizen Kane is a lot more on the spoken-word / poetic tip, while Qwel and Qwazaar mostly focus on battle rhymes. The beats tend to be very jazzy and laid back. Typical....

The album kicks off with one of the best introductions I have heard in a long time, with all three emcees dropping short verses over a dope acoustic guitar loop and smooth female vocals in the back. Qwazaar states it best with "This here is for all the cats who is searching hard for the content, who won't settle for the nonsense, for those whose intellect just will not accept the dumb shit / the last true few heads, willing to spend they final dollars, on they favorite hip-hop artists, no matter what the cost is / let's start this." This does exactly what the beginning of an album should do: introduce you to the artists without any filler material.

Simple beats are often a curse, but they don't have to be. Natural's production on "Reinventing The Wheel", the next track, is quite basic, but the three emcees mesh together so well over it. The message is that the Typical Cats aren't here to restructure hip-hop, they are merely trying to improve upon its current design. The chemistry that these three emcees have together is truly remarkable; few groups can ever pull it off this well. Too often in a group one emcee will steal the spotlight from the other, but these three compliment each other's styles nicely.

There are a few more tracks on this album which feature the entire group, and they do not disappoint. "Any Day" has a once again jazzy beat layered with flows that cannot be described. The topic of stress is covered; Qwel and Qwazaar spit nice, but Denizen speaks so well on this issue you'd swear he should be a published poet. The influence from the days of Common Sense's "Resurrection" is very obvious on "Take A Number", but what's wrong with that? Influence is a lot different than emulation, and it is obvious from listening which one the Typical Cats use.

Along with the group tracks, each member (except Kid Knish) takes their turn at going solo. Qwel tears the microphone ass-backwards on "Cliché", showing why he's my unofficial pick to be the Scribble Jam 2001 champ. "You couldn't beat me to death if I let you jump first", "Just 'cause I stand over you don't mean you understand me", and "...drop lines like Samoans on tight-ropes"...all while stating (paraphrased) 'Who really cares who has the dopest punchlines, it's all about the emceeing.' "Qweloquillisms" also showcases his battle-esque rhyming ability, but his true gem on this album is his ode to graffiti, "The Manhatten Project". This is quite possibly the best track about street-art ever, with Meatyogre laying down the perfect beat for this topic: layered with high-pitched sounds and a hard-hitting drum pattern. This gives Qwel way to paint his picture (pun intended, biyotch.) "I won't stop painting 'til the world looks the way it should, I'm on a mission to make heaven look like my neighborhood / I won't stop painting 'til the world looks the way it should, I'm on a mission to make heaven look like your neighborhood." Fuck the buff, yo.

Denizen Kane's solo efforts also prove to be very tight, covering a wide variety of topics with an abstract flow hard to compete with. "Snake Oil" is dedicated to the art of physical love, guaranteed to serinate that special someone for you. My only complaint is that Denizen never gets into anything mental or emotional, but whatever, it's still dope. "Live Forever" is his vision of what it would be like to be famous, and this proves to be very thought-provoking. Definitely worth a listen, and food-for-thought to all you Jay-Z wannabes out there. Finally, "What You Thought Hops" is some spoken-word's very evident that Denizen's "true love is poetry." If recycled beats are your pet peeve, then you might want to skip this track as it does use the same loop and drum pattern as the intro. While this would usually have me snuffin' folks, I enjoy the way Denizen meshes with the beat, to produce an almost hypnotic listen.

Although this album does have many high points, like most, it also has its negative aspects. "It Won't Stop", Qwazaar's solo joint, does have some nice lines ("In a boxing match I'll snatch ya breath out and count the ref out"), but the loop and pattern are too basic. I think this track deserved a bit better. Also, even though the scratched vocal samples are timed properly, they do not sound very good over this chosen beat. Natural does put down a very nice instrumental for "Too Happy For Qwel", but his other solo track "Natural Causes" proves to be a complete flop. This may have worked if it was a 30-second introduction into "Take A Number", but instead it drags on for two minutes; a collage of vocal samples over a noisy beat that doesn't really do much for me.

I hate ending reviews with negative words, especially when they are albums that deserve praise such as this one. While there is some work to be done in the event of another Typical Cats album, this one is still hot. And while this is not your 'typical' hip-hop album, maybe it should be. It is quite possible that through years of 'can we play rap too' and garbage releases, that our standards have dropped. These cats sure are not typical for our era, but through perseverance, you never know. The only thing 'typical' about this album is that it's another impressive release from Chicago's Galapagos4.

review: radi8

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