I haven’t heard an album like this for years. Not since the 90’s has an album sounded this quintessentially New York; it flat-out makes me proud to love Hip Hop and rep it every day. Fredro Starr is one of the game’s legendary MC’s; he’s paid his dues as a member of Onyx, made some serious classics back when NY rap was in it’s prime, acted in Spike Lee’s Clockers (get the soundtrack) & The Wire, and has kept his lyrical fire burning and skill for spittin’ honed throughout his career. You’d think by this point the man should have nothing left to prove on the mic; but he’s not one to lie down and rest on his past achievements. With the new Snowgoons-produced Onyx LP #WAKEDAFUCUP set to see a release later on this year, Starr has decided to start 2014 as he means to go on; by dropping an incendiary album in the first week of the year.
Audible Doctor’s beats hit harder than Tyson at 18, and never let up the for the LP’s duration. He’s taken producing back to full-albums stacked with bangers, with songs that flow together as seamlessly as Fredro Starr’s words, packed with big hooks and catchy melodies. In an era where the album as a full listening experience has lost importance in mainstream rap; with the majority of tracks acting as padding for a few radio singles scattered throughout, the production on Made In The Streets ensures that every song is coming out the speakers with the clear intent to have you bopping that head til you can’t help but dig those old crates for Lifestylez and Word…Life. Everyday Hell is one of the best songs you’ll hear this year; if it’s not come back in December and tell me so. In ten years this’ll be played alongside Survival Of The Fittest and Twinz (Deep Cover ’98) as a street classic; the song’s bold, old school approach is the most potent form of no-frills Hip Hop straight off the street. To be in 2014 and still be hearing honest reflection from an MC thoroughly at home behind the mic, backed by hard boom bap beats is why real Hip Hop will never die. You couldn’t ask for a better opener.
That New York pushes things forward with another untouchable track that knocks harder than the cops did at Chairman Fred’s door. The echoes of Nas before the first verse are dope, and when on the second verse Starr drags out his words, he’s flowing some of the nicest rhymes I’ve heard him drop in years. It’s a respectable move for them to show Drake love by sampling his line paying homage to Starr on The Truth; even if the sample does make me feel bad for hearing that voice come thru my stereo and feel the urge to write ‘YMCMB is not for me’ on a blackboard twenty times like I did something wrong. Thankfully the rest of the song’s so damn good they could have sampled Kermit the frog rapping Ice Ice Baby on the hook and it still would’ve been a banger. By this point it’s becoming painfully obvious I need to go buy everything Audible Doctor and Brown Bag All Stars have ever made; his beats are too much. This Aint My Day is another anthemic epic; not the most lyrically challenging concept but some solid bars from Starr still. Even that A & R who climbed mountains and played electric guitar would be snapping his fingers and gettin down in his corduroys to this one.
The Big L sample sets off Holdin’ It Down right and the track only gets stronger from there. Makem Pay’s opening verse is refreshing; keeping it straightforward and rugged with his delivery.That type of confident, stern flow that comes rooted in reality has been replaced in a lot of today’s music by over-indulgence in metaphor and simile; and although I’m into intricate raps that layer meaning and play with words, sometimes you just need to take it back to that steez Big Syke, Freddie Foxxx and Makem Pay have perfected. Polo Wars is Fredro Starr on his A game; like he says at the start of the track ‘This that real New York shit’. The song’s a lucid picture of life in Southside Queens, the day to day he describes is laced with heartfelt honesty and grim detail, not since 50’s first major album has life in that hood been brought to life with so much character. Starr’s lyrical styles step up a notch again on What U Goin Thru, as his flow finds a rare groove and settles into it with ease; his skill as a seasoned vet when it comes to matching bars to beats is beyond comparable. On tracks like this one he proves once more that he’s got styles upon styles like Phife. Mike Raw defies his name’s description and lays down some clean, polished vocals on Racing, giving the song the boost it was seeking to elevate from standard rap track to a more radio-friendly number, and although it’s more commercial, the song doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard to be a single; and is presented more as a relaxed tune to cruise to than a club banger. Suicide Queens has got bucketloads of carefree swagger and smooth sounds that echo Pac at his calmest, with a chorus refrain that’s pure 90’s summer haze and harks back to times when chorus lines could be catchy without some pop singer crooning over them.
With heavy hitters like Ain’t No Other Kind; that other Doctor might have to come up with some beats to go in your ears rather than on them soon, young producers like Audible Doctor are ringing some heads of their own when it comes to droppin beats like these. Fredro Starr’s verses touch on some modern mainstream preoccupations; and the Kendrick line is frankly necessary at this point; with the whole industry jockin’ his music so hard and so many fans bowing down to one man as the biggest thing to happen to the culture in years, the listening audience needs bars like these just to even out the hype. On his second verse he addresses the fashion choices being made by today’s rap generation by comparing them to Pac and BIG Poppa, then makes some more ripples the shallow currents of the mainstream by taking a leaf out of Lord Jamar’s book and scolding the skirts we’re seeing (waste)men like Kanye & A$AP rocking. Hitman For Hire isn’t the best track on the album, but it still stands up strong with it’s G Rap-style stories of assassination attempts in projects, and another neck-breaking beat from Audible Doctor. The closing remix of the title track serves to sum up the release definitively over three minutes of pure enjoyment through Hip Hop; it’s catchy as hell, the beat is executed to perfection, and the raps are consistently dope and relevant in the midst of today’s schizophrenic society. Top to bottom the album’s a modern classic. The short, memorable songs, simple structure and deep roots that connect Starr to the culture give it an authenticity only a few new US rappers can claim without someone co-signing them; and takes the art form back to brass tacks with no hype or bullshit.
BDP & PE were the antidote to the disco glitz the mainstream was pushing in the 80’s, 36 Chambers replaced Puffy’s wack dancing and shiny suits with realness and skill on the mic in the 90’s; and like the man himself said in the pic above, Made In The Streets is the antidote to that fake shit for our generation. It’s an LP made by Hip Hop heads that love the music as much as their fans do, and you can hear it in their songs.
Buy it on itunes now. Hopefully they’ll drop it on Vinyl or CD in the future.