Planet Asia – Black Belt Theatre

Planet Asia – Black Belt Theatre
Wandering Worx: 2012

Planet Asia is the owner of many titles at this point in his career: legendary West Coast artist, pioneering underground emcee, mixtape king and member of The Skhool Yard and Cali agents. Now, with the release of his tenth album you can add ‘officially accomplished recorded musician’ to his list of achievements. He’s been on the grind in the music industry since 1996. Asia (a.k.a: Jason Green) has amassed tons of critical acclaim via nine previous albums and countless mixtapes. After a three year hiatus from recording, Asia brings us Black Belt Theatre, his personal foray into the “concept album.”

He based the album around the theme of his favorite Saturday morning cartoon and adoration of Kung Fu flicks from his childhood. Black Belt Theatre stays true to its theatrical theme, complete with featured guests, karate-themed tracks and more. However, while the lyrical aspect and concept behind this album is solid and creative, the only issue with this album is the overuse of soul-heavy, fruity loop-based beats that detract from King Medallions’s (usually) glorious storytelling.

There are plenty of quality hip-hop moments throughout this project, like the Oh-No produced tracks “No Apologies” and “Stay Ready” with Raekwon and the wonderfully themed track “Bruce Lee“.  However, it truly is the production behind the project that fails to capture my attention. In short, while nothing is lacking lyrically on this album (although I think I’ve grown weary the heavy story lines detailing West Coast gang culture; I grew up in it) the beats on this project can be a bit boring and mundane at times. Perhaps the best word to use is dated. Planet Asia is somewhat intriguing on this album. The production, however, is not.

While still lyrically relevant on every level, I’m incredibly eager to hear Planet Asia update his production style and try some new sounds to deliver his rhymes to. Yes, it is possible to do this without selling out or losing yourself in the process, but few artists have managed this delicate balance between updating their sound and not losing their own artistic integrity. It’s not an easy thing to do, I know, and it might be even harder to do when you’re out of the studio for almost four years. Nevertheless, Black Belt Theatre is a decent album with some great hip-hop lyricism that you should probably check out for yourself.

3.5 out of 5

3 thoughts on “Planet Asia – Black Belt Theatre

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  1. the most whack thing in this review is to say PA hasn’t been in the studio in the last 4 years… smh. Don’t tell me you missed Stoney Jackson, Crack Belt Theater, General Monks, Camouflage Jackets, the Arrival Mixtape AND the PA/Madlib EP? I thought production was dope, but personally I think he’s even better on heavier beats like we heard with Muggs and some of Architect’s

  2. Publicagent|

    Only thing I like better from Asia is Pain Language with dj muggs.
    This album took me a few listens but started to come together for me by the third listen. I think that good albums like this truly take time to digest.
    There are a few corny metaphors on here which is something that seems to be happening in too many good albums as of late but this is a dope album

  3. RespectDaArt|

    Ericka Simone why did you waste everybody’s time by writing a horrible review of Planet Asia’s Magnum Opus?!!!!! This is his best album of his career! Black Belt Theatre will be one of the best Hip-Hop albums period of 2012. Mark my word. I study the art of this music and I am a PA fan. I’ve watched this brotha and listened to his early work where production was no where near as dope as what he has on this record. The features are incredible. His bars are razor sharper than ever. Plus he gave us 21 tracks! No interludes. How could you possibly say his beats are lackluster when this is his best work to date? I know I know. You are a new intern or whatever that doesnt know this mans work outside of a couple songs. This man represents for the pure emcees right outta Cali. He is shooting for a classic organic soulful sound and he captured it with this beautiful piece of work. This album is incredible and anybody that knows Hip-Hop knows how classic this album sounds. You didnt even go in depth on the songs subject matter and describe the lyrics. Not one quote from a verse. WTF! I need your job! I would definately give an in depth review. Planet Asia is too slept on and he worked too damn hard to be getting lackluster reviews on an album that the masses wont get too often. This is Nas material right here. This is epic.

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