Much has changed since 2003: Saddam Hussein was still running things in Iraq, YouTube did not exist and a group called CYNE was bursting onto the scene with their debut album, Time Being. After more than a decade of head-nodding hip-hop, CYNE returns with All My Angles Are Right – and the group sound as fresh as ever.
The opening notes of “Attics” combined with Cise Star’s stellar spitting makes it seem as if the group never left. “I’m that same nigga from right here,” the record rings out. It’s worth mentioning that Cise Star is the only rapper you will hear on this project. Akin Yae, the group’s other longtime MC, is off working on a solo project. Fans hoping for that classic interplay between the two talented rappers, or even just a variety of voices, won’t get it here; however, that is more of an observation rather than a criticism as the album absolutely whizzes by.
The production team of Speck and Enoch keep the tracks moving crisply and Cise Star is still a monster. This is more than evident on “Tears For Uriah”, the album’s third track. As the record’s first single, this was the track that let their fans know CYNE is back. It’s a breezy two-and-a-half minutes, with Cise Star flowing slickly over chopped vocal samples. It makes a great choice for a single, with a borderline sing-along chorus and a triumphant vibe.
Things get a little darker after that. You can see the streetlights zooming by as Cise Star sits shotgun, zoning out, in “Sunglasses After Midnight” – a song that revolves around plinky keys and slinky guitars. “Fine Prints” follows, combining a soul sample with some serious “Bizzy Bone flow.” He’s on point here, pointing out that he’s “too slick for that ignorant bullshit/ (He) sees the Maker’s Mark behind the pulpit.”
“In Between Kingdoms” is similarly dark, with a chorus that includes the line, “If truth had a color, it would be gray.” That the record is able to make subtle transitions like this so smoothly is a testament to the quality of production.
Enoch and Speck do more than just back Cise Star with dope beats. Though the 15-song tracklist appears daunting, there’s a variety to their production styles and a thoughtfulness to the sequencing that makes the album shine. At about 2:45 minutes apiece, the songs don’t stagnate. It may seem like a small achievement, but when such aspects of an album are executed well, the quality is bolstered.
Not that every step is perfect. Befitting their veteran status, some of their namechecks (Topanga, Tony Danza) sound both clunky and anachronistic. The extended metaphor on “Heaven is a Hologram” (“Roy G. Biv never raised his kids,” it begins) is colorful and creative in its description but feels a little circus-like when combined with the song’s treacly treatment.
The record regains sure footing as it goes deeper. Cise Star seems to get more relatable as the beats get murkier. “Shun me or love me / Yes, we are struggling and yes, I need funding,” he sighs on “Null”. “Spaces” is similarly introspective. Cise does a masterful job of maintaining a cohesive narrative, weaving previously used lines and choruses into other songs, perhaps the benefit of being the solo MC on the project.
CYNE picked up right where they left off and All My Angles Are Right compares well with the group’s lengthy discography. Despite the subtraction of Akin, the group has cultivated enough new experiences to make their style seem both classic and contemporary. If not exactly all, more than enough of the band’s angles are right to appease their long-time fans and likely win some new ones. The more things change, the more they stay the same.