Anglo-Saxon UNPLUG

After ten years of honing his mic skills in the Phoenix underground, Anglo-Saxon finally debuts with UNPLUG, an album of dark, society-conscious hip-hop that runs the gamut from good old b-boy anthems ("It’s Called Breakin”) to spiritual enlightenment ("Lead” featuring LMNO) to conspiracy theory ("Free Masonry”) to the current state of hip-hop ("This Old House”). Ill Al, as Anglo-Saxon throughout the album, is a seasoned rapper with a confident vocal delivery and a sense of when to take the occasional chance, comfortable over beats both melancholy or danceable — or even a cappella. While the album could be trimmed of a little fat, many of the songs are infectiously easy to enjoy: "Ghettoblaster” is a strong though short opening salvo; "Traveling” is a fist-pumping, ass shaking posse cut; and "Lead” is freshly spit Christian doctrine that’s more mic-wrecking than missionary. Comic book artist Jay Photos (Spawn) captures the dark yet sometimes paranoid atmosphere of the album with his thematic, double-sided cover art that depicts a plugged-in loneliness, adding yet another dimension to this superbly well-rounded debut package. (Grave9)