Published Dec 01, 2013Rich Kidd, Tona and Adam Bomb, individually, are three of Toronto's most seasoned hip-hop artists, so it's no surprise this collective mixtape project under the banner Naturally Born Strangers is a tour de force. Ostensibly, the project was launched in conjunction with the latest collection from Toronto designer Bryan Espiritu's clothing line The Legends League, but there's not much of a hard sell here unless you are a satisfied consumer of gritty beats and rhymes.
Anyone who has been paying attention to Toronto hip-hop for the past years will know that Rich Kidd, as well as being a more than a technically proficient MC, is a prolific and versatile producer. Despite the wealth of material he has released, this NBS project finds him adding another wrinkle to his sonic approach. Kidd's beats often take on a somber, dark and unsettling tone here, taking on the concept of urban isolation of social outcasts of the mixtape as his cue, tweaking Portishead, Radiohead and Little Dragon beats to his configurations. Fellow MCs Tona and Adam Bomb (who also both contributed to the Freedom Writers' excellent Now) step up to the plate, often delivering standout performances, connecting the dots between seemingly disconnected circumstances.
"Strangerhood" is a static-ridden three-way conversation reminiscent of The Firm's "Phone Tap," and "Tie Breaker" is a parable displaying one degree of separation between triumph and tragedy. Adam Bomb shines on the vivid post-hedonism haze of the speaker-rattling "Jameson Avenue," while Tona contributes a merciless verse to the anthemic "Buttered Chicken." All three artists clearly raise each other's game with equally combative and thought-provoking rhymes that aim and succeed in giving a voice to unheard stories. (Independent)