Album Review: CunninLynguists – Strange Journey Volume One (2009)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Potholes
If there is one group I have been tremendously impressed with in the last few years (in fact, I did not even discover them until 2006) it is the CunninLynguists. The southern trio consisting of emcees Deacon the Villain and Natti and seemingly hit-or-hit producer Kno have consistently put out albums that not only prove that the south isn’t all about getting crunk and rapping over synths and high-hats but that it is still possible to put out a complete, cohesive project in an era taken over by ringtone purchases and 99 centsingles.
The “strange journey” begins with the group finding a broken down van, lighting up and taking it for a joy ride. Throughout the album the same van is periodically mentioned (including the hilarious “White Guy Mind Tricks” where the group gets pulled over), while a theme of being on the road is heavily present. Lyrics like “On the road again // A journey to the unknown again // Another episode, when do you suppose it ends?” from the opening track “Nothing But Strangeness” represent the attitude for the entire journey. “Hypnotized” is a dedication to the women who have the members of the group in hypnosis, as explained “Hypnotism is my prison // someone get me out of it”. Tonedeff gives us a preview of the future “Chico & The Man” project with “The Distance” and former CL member Mr. S.O.S. returns for his solo joint “Die for You”. The remix of “Dance For Me” features a beat that tops the original, but unfortunately the first verse seems very out of place for a listener used to hearing the original. The other remixes on the album, however, fail to disappoint. The journey comes to an end with one of the album’s highlights “ (Thinking of You)” where their stolen vehicle breaks down leaving the group to see a mechanic and pick up their ride for the second half of the adventure (“Billy Joe’s Garage (To Be Continued)”).
The albums first two singles (“Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)” and “Don’t Leave (When Winter Comes)”) immediately found a comfortable home on my iPod seconds after hearing of their release. “Never Come Down” surpasses their 2006 cut “Beautiful Girl” on my list of favorite weed-anthems while “Don’t Leave” features Slug (of Atmosphere), one of my favorite emcees, dedicating a solid verse to his city. Both have mesmerizing, sample-heavy choruses and set the marks for the brightest (NCD) and one of the more darkest (DL) moments on the project.
Undoubtedly the star of this project, and to be honest the past few CL releases, is Kno. The Georgia born producer continues to up his game never failing to steal the show on most of the album’s cuts. Absent from the mic aside from one verse and a live performance, Kno adds a distinctive flavor to the production tip with crisp, complete beats and standout samples. While Deacon and Natti are no slouches by any means, Strange Journey only adds to the list of reasons why I am fiending to hear rappers outside of the CunninLynguist camp over Kno’s instrumentals.
In the end, Strange Journey Volume One is nothing but yet another solid addition to the CunninLynguists already superb catalog. And while flooded with a live performance and remixes of several