Freedom Writers Now

Freedom Writers Now
8
This record has absolutely no right sounding as cohesive and consistently cracking as it does. The debut long-player from Toronto, ON super-friends Freedom Writers features contributions from five core MCs, plus an additional five vocalists, yet never once feels disjointed. Producer Big Sproxx, dipping into his bag of soul-soaked loops and crisp snares, is the glue holding these 17 tracks together, but it's the solo acts' willingness to put lyrical content upfront and stuff egos in the trunk that makes Now feel like the well-executed work of a rap group (remember that?) and not a compilation. Whether it's the mic-passing interplay of "For the Change" or the thematic consistency of "Music," Theo 3, Tona, Adam Bomb, Frankie Payne and Progress bring their own opinions and flows to predominantly energetic tracks that update the warm sound of Eastcoast '90s rap. With three songs stretching past the five-minute mark, four cameos from Mathematik and a tendency to tackle social and political issues (public schooling, paranoia, poverty) with fists and some wit, there's no shortage of rapping, or ideas. Hearing Kanye West's "All Falls Down" at a wedding, Adam Bomb insisted Sproxx sample Yeezus's line, "Fuck the police, that's how I treat 'em" and build an anti-cop track. The result, "Off the Pigs," is a Bomb Squad-like monster that rails against profiling without sounding pedantic. "The truth is, we don't need no help," Frankie Payne spits, "'Cause every MC on this track can hold it down by his goddam self." They can, but they sound even better as a crew. The sum is better than the parts. (Independent)