As late career renaissances go, Ski Beatz’ has to be one of the most unexpected. Nevertheless, the man behind “Dead Presidents” rise from the ashes has nothing to do with luck, but rather an ability to consistently craft pristine tracks for young MCs like Curren$y and Jay Electronica. Having gotten his mojo back, Beatz steps out of the background and into the spotlight with his own album, 24 Hour Karate School. The result is easily one of best exhibitions of the year.
Over a fast moving twelve tracks, Beatz establishes himself as a master of many styles, adept at transitioning between different sounds. The mournful horns of opener “Nothing But Us” bleed beautifully into the rough dissonance of “Go,” as Ski Beatz enlists the odd combination of Jim Jones and Curren$y to give the album some guttural flavor. Each production loop shows expert craftsmanship—even a standard high-hat and snare on “Not Like Me,” has layers beneath its simplicity, as Beatz tweaks the echo effect at just the right moment to create ebb and flow.
As impressive is how the production sensei crafts beats to bring out the best in his various warriors microphone skills. Beatz masks Tabi Bonney’s inconsistent lyricism with an energetic guitar loop on “I Got Mines” allowing Bonney’s strength, a unique, energetic vocal style, to come to the forefront. The best results come from breakout performances “S.T.A.L.L.E.Y.” and “Super Bad,” collaborations with frosh rappers Stalley and Rugz D. Bewler, respectively. The bearded New York-Ohioan embeds his names into mind with unforgettable algorithms while on the latter, Beatz outrageously flips a few seconds of sample into sonic chaos, providing the perfect canvas for Bewler to spew brilliant lyrical wackiness.
It helps that Beatz has called in quite a few favors to stock his dojo with the best talent around. TSS mid-term valedictorian Wiz Khalifa and the aforementioned Curren$y trade rhymes with the cockiness of the up-and-coming on “Scaling the Building.” Jean Grae, Jay Electronica and an uncredited Joel Ortiz trade lyrical chops and punches on “Prowler 2.” Everyone brings their A-game, and the roster’s mix from The Cool Kids to Ras Kass is the right mix of vets and rookies. Only thing that’s missing is a Wu appearance to bring the martial arts theme full circle.
Only minor flaws keep 24 Hour Karate School from achieving black belt status. Closing the album with two instrumental tracks slow the substantial momentum. A few more verses from Curren$y, Smoke Dza or Wiz couldn’t have hurt either. Hip-Hop heads will easily forgive these. 24 Hour Karate School hits harder than an one-inch punch.