Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom
Sometimes you get an album that has some songs that are so great that you can't help but wonder why the rest of the album can't be as good. Such is the case with both Brother El's Through the Cracks of Concrete and Mystic's Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom. With both releases, there are a couple of tracks that are instant mix-tape fodder, but the rest of the album is mediocrity or worse, cheese. With Brother El, he mostly makes the right moves when it comes to beats, but when he gets behind a microphone to rap, sing or perform his spoken word pieces, the results are often mixed. Luckily he sticks with mostly instrumentals, which are usually pretty good. Plus, when the lyrics and the beat are matched, some great music occurs. "Broken Dreams" and "Fade It" are both worth more than a cursory listen, while beats like "The Dark Room (After the Foreplay)" and "Protection of the Child" are recorded proof that El is best behind the boards. In fact, "Pay Close Attention" is a perfect example of El's production outshining his vocal delivery. However, where the biggest failures occur - those songs you will want to fast forward - they fail because they seem at once both pretentious and cheesy. There's nothing worse than emotions that seem forced. And that's how I felt listening to "I Just Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Don't Hold Back."
The worst moments on Mystic's album were also due to a similar cause. In Mystic's case, however, she sounds like she is truly attempting to be sincere, but bland beats that are trying too hard to evoke emotion often hold back the true potential of the music. That's how I felt about many of Lauryn Hill's songs, and Mystic is getting these comparisons. With songs like "The Life" and "You Say, I Say," Mystic is getting closest to Lauryn Hill. And while there are some other good tracks on the album, the three production contributions by the Angel ("Ghetto Birds," "OK...Alright" and "Destiny Complete") are the top three tracks, so here's to hoping they work on something a little more substantial in the future. If not, maybe Brother El could hook Mystic up with some more beats and we'd have a winning combination. (Beat Bank)