Though outwardly they may appear to be a new group, MHz would like to make sure you that this their self-titled debut effort has been a long time in the making. The five members, (Copywrte, Tage Future, Jakki Da Motamouth, and most notably instrumental hip-hop auteur RJD2 and the late Camu Tao) have seen themselves as a collective since they formed in Columbus, Ohio 15 years ago. The tragic premature death of their brother and their individual solo careers have kept them from dropping a release as a crew, but you get the impression that it’s been on their mind, something that they’ve been waiting for: its apparent in the energy that all the rappers bring to the table, and the monologues that bookend some of the tracks and lay out some of the record’s history explicitly.
The one who seems to benefit the most from this collective optimism and excitement is RJD2. Ever since his excellent 2002 Def Jux debut Deadringer, he’s been going off the boil, concerning himself with shaky excursions into singer songwriter territory and increasingly rock-flecked productions, (the actually-pretty-good, slightly more traditionalist The Colossus notwithstanding), but here he seems to be liberated by his position as simply the beat maker, with no need to be bothered with any more high-minded concerns than crafting beats that knock. And knock they do, proving to be the album’s backbone and main strength.
He might only have actually produced six tracks on the record, but all of them are prime examples of what he used to do best, and they set the general tone of the whole effort. The shuffling brass-heavy boom-bap of “Hindsight (1998)”, the wobbly percolating bass of “Four Player Mode”, the jazzy retro-rap on the Slug-assisted “Satisfied”; they are the sound of a hip-hop head cutting loose and relaxing, as a result regaining some focus and tapping into the same easy-going spirit that marked his work as great in the first place.
The other producers that contribute generally either work in the same kind of zone as RJD2 or bend a little to the will of the record: Marco Polo brings a slice of his reliable NY-styled hardcore, Surock presents a couple of mellower, haltingly melodic jams, (notably the excellent Blu-featuring “Yellow and Blue”), and !llmind channels the record’s musical architect on the moody “Soul Train (Of Thought)”. The main production that really sticks out is the appropriately sci-fi menace of “Spaceship”, laced by Harry Fraud and a heavy feature from Danny Brown (predictably given the insane hot-streak the man is on right now).
Of course, most members of this crew are rappers, and it is them that share the load of carrying the record beyond the generally great beats. They do an able job, all of them sounding energised and genuinely excited to be rapping on the album that’s taken them so long to pull together. They spread themselves all over whatever beat that they inhabit, all of them utilising energetic and nimble flows, rarely changing or letting it up, which actually suits the generally classicist character of the music pretty well. The one area where the album sags is lyrically. The rappers might bring a lot of energy to the table, but they don’t really flex too much lyrical muscle.
Generally the fare is just general battle rap braggadocio with occasional forays into more serious topics like the death of the group’s fifth member Camu and past issues with drug abuse. This is fine, obviously, but they are let down by some downright corny lines; when Danny Brown stops by on the aforementioned “Spaceship” to drop a typically well-crafted verse packed with out-there witticisms, it kind of shows what you might be missing out on. Still, Tage, Jakki and Copywrite do just what’s needed, plus these guys have enough game-time under their belts that you know you’re in more than capable hands. Especially when they’re hands gloved in beats as good as this.