Saukrates The Underground Tapes

Saukrates’ 1994 debut single “Still Caught Up” was an important catalyst in bringing about the respect that Canada’s hugely talented pool of independent hip-hop artists presently enjoy. Even though Saukrates has steadily issued buzz-inducing singles and EPs since then (including bona fide head nodder “Father Time” added here, as a bonus track), The Underground Tapes represents his first full-length release. “On the outside it looks like all we’re doing is putting out records slowly but that ain’t the case,” says Saukrates. “If I could’ve had an album out in ’95, I would’ve y’know.” Mirroring the unsuccessful attempt to release an album four years ago, Saukrates severed his relationship with Warner U.S. earlier this year, with another constantly delayed album in the can. Thankfully, The Underground Tapes is worth the wait, featuring several bonus tracks not available on the album’s American version. “Let me talk to y’all for a minute/ It’s my turn to shine now,” he commands on opener “Can’t Touch Us,” proceeding to display constantly engaging and versatile rhyme skills throughout. Renowned lyricists such as Common, Pharoah Monch and Xzibit also put in appearances, collaborations Saukrates clearly values. “Just being in the same room as them cats has allowed me to open my eyes to the rap game as far as the world is concerned,” he admits, speaking specifically of working with highly respected MCs Masta Ace and O.C. on “Rollin’” in New York. “It allowed me to come back to Toronto with a different vision. Instead of competing across the city or within the city, it kinda just opened the can.” Saukrates’ own production, which veers from the spare “Money Or Love” to the slick and soulful “Bag Da Biscuit (remix)” is indicative of his breadth and allows his talent to be appreciated in full. “It was just time to put out a full-length,” he says. “Give ‘em something more to grasp than just the vinyl single.” (Capitol Hill)