He is fierce, witty, and before Crown of Thorns hit, he was one-third of what made us appreciate Dilated Peoples as a whole. But few folks have heard from Rakaa as of late, so should Crown of Thorns be good enough to keep a listener with a good treat to tide fans over until Evidence’s Cats & Dogs?
Right off the bat, things get started with the Sid Roams assisted title track with Aloe Blacc providing a sense of sanity to the track’s laser-guided dark synths as Rakaa kicks some knowledge. Elsewhere on the disc, you have KRS-One on the Exile-produced “Human Nature (Now Breathe)” and the hard-hitting Alchemist-produced “Aces High” with strong cameo appearances from Fashawn, Defari and Evidence. Then there is the unexpected but great El-P appearance behind the boards for “Mean Streak”, which features Chali 2na on the hook. The varied production is provided by the folks mentioned above along with the likes of DJ Honda, DJ Babu, Illmind, Oh No, as well as a couple more by Alchemist. And all of these guys help provide a lush and soulful palette for Rakaa’s deep delivery and allows his cameos to do the same.
However, this disc is not without its faults. “Ambassador Slang” has 11 guests alone on the cut. Not that it’s a horrible song by any means, but it could have easily been better with just the strongest four-to-six cameos. Many could also make the argument that Rakaa got too many guests on the CD, which makes Crown of Thorns act more a “Rakaa and Friends” effort. But in each cameo works to Rakaa’s benefit, because he’s more a straight forward emcee by contrast.
Once it’s all said and done, Crown of Thorns gives Rakaa the platform he’s longed for. And once all the ingredients are taken into effect, from Fashawn’s passionate delivery on “Aces High” to Rakaa’s deepness on “Rosetta Stone Groove (Universal Language)”, it certainly works to our host’s advantage. Dilated Peoples coming back? Shit, they never left.
4 out of 5