Substance Abuse Background Music

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Most of what you need to know about the sophomore album from Los Angeles-based Substance Abuse is revealed on the intro, a compilation of harsh criticisms directed at the crew, including: "They sound totally throwback, like 1998" and "It's when they team up with other MCs that their limitations are revealed." Sure, Subz and Eso Tre aren't the tightest rappers you'll ever hear, but they are engaging, even on the tracks without guests, and there's little shame in being found wanting when paired with veteran heavyweights such as KRS-One, Tash, Sadat X, MC Eiht, Myka 9 and Percee P. Even the guest appearances scream throwback. Both the flows and production (most of it by Waes One, Vibes1 and Hanif Hobbs) evoke that late '90s, leftfield underground rap vibe. Lyrically, the duo (and their many guests) touch upon the violence of the streets ("West Los," "Crew vs. Gangs" and "Flossin'"), discuss the different definitions of success and stardom ("Young Hollywood," "Burnouts" and "Front Row"), describe the downside to excessive drinking ("Three Sheets to the Wind") and update N.W.A.'s "A Bitch iz A Bitch" for men with "Bitches 2." Substance Abuse aren't breaking any new ground, but nostalgic hip-hop heads will enjoy this full-length as more than just background music. (Independent)