First Words Cheaters

For those waxing nostalgic about the golden age, and for those who are just searching for some throwback hip-hop, First Words present their sophomore album, Cheaters, a testimonial on how to beat the system. The traditional flows of all four members — MCs Sean One and Above, producer Jorun and DJ STV — are a good fit for Jorun’s old school-inspired, jazz- and funk-influenced boom-bap beats. Accompanying that is a heavy dose of STV’s turntable tactics, as well as offerings from Jorun, Hurricane Annie (R.I.P.) and Cosmo. While the rest of Cheaters may not be as dated, all of the songs do share in the general feel captured by throwbacks like "Routines,” with Above and Sean One spitting back and forth over a Grandmaster Flash-style production, and "Annie On a Rampage,” a solo track for Annie following in the tradition of the DJ tracks that used to be a part of any old school hip-hop album. Unfortunately, with the potential for up to four MCs to appear on any song, plus a healthy collection of featured guests such as Buck 65, Ghettosocks and Philmost, Cheaters does run a little long at 25 tracks, especially when few of those tracks are interludes. A lesson in brevity from the old school classics wouldn’t be unwarranted. (Deadbeats)