Afu-Ra State of the Arts

This is Afu-Ra’s third album, and since his first vocal appearance along side Jeru tha Damaja, he has developed himself into a confident sharp artist. When it comes to Afu-Ra, there is a clarity in what you’re going to get and won’t get in his music. He’s an MC that has incorporated Eastern sounds, beyond random martial arts references, and other musical genres into his songs. All of his outside and alternative influences are blended into his Brooklyn, New York rap bravado. On "Poisonous Taoist,” he expresses his lyrical confidence over a Fela Kuti guitar and horn section sample. "Dynamite” mixes a wailing female vocal snippet with an electric trumpet, a la ’80s kung-fu cinema. It sounds as if Afu-Ra transported himself into a Saturday afternoon kung-fu flick from back in the days, punching, kicking, and rhyming all over the beat. You’re not going to get any attempts to fit into current trends from Afu-Ra — his music is done on his own terms and he sticks to what he’s cool with. Some old and new friends assist Afu on State of the Arts: Masta Killa makes a haunting appearance on "Living Like That,” which is a grim orchestral Brooklyn collaboration; and Kardinal Offishall joins Afu on "Deal Wit it,” which is the PF Cuttin’-produced, up-tempo portion of the album talking about the ladies. Both of these tracks have reggae fused into them, in varying degrees, and are two examples of Afu-Ra’s dexterity as an MC. He sounds comfortable during all of the different moments and moods on State of the Arts. This is a well-rounded creative album, where flash and flare is replaced with good beats, clear flows, and clear ideas. (Koch)