CunninLynguists are geniuses. Not just for their namesake, but because they are one of the most original and creative groups making hip-hop today, and released the best album you probably haven’t heard this year. Their third album is appropriately titled A Piece Of Strange, the album’s dark feel evokes a unique blend of emotions. This is soul music.
A Piece of Strange conjures memories of Outkast with DJ Kno’s (native ATLien) smooth smoke infused grooves and Deacon the Villain’s Kentucky fried slang-filled introspection, or it may cause flashbacks to “Aquemini” on spaced out rock tracks like the album’s Chonkyfired last song, “The Light.” But more than anything else, this album causes the listener to contract a severe case of déjà vu to “Soul Food.”
Just like the Goodie Mob’s debut (hip hop’s most fitting acronym considering their current group status) they sing hooks together on “Nothing To Give,” “What Will You Do,” “Remember Me,” they have a reverence to the group’s most notorious song about mental prison on “Brain Cell,” and by the fourth song it’s no coincidence that one Cee-Lo Green is the album’s first guest on “Caved In.” Just check out the hook on the second song “Since When,”
“I heard ’em say Southern folk can’t rhyme
Some of yall must be out ya Goddamn mind
Yeah its about that time, we got that shine, and it’s been about them lines
Ever since a pocket full of stones
Ridin dirty in the Chevy sitting heavy on chrome
Ever since Goodie Mo’ had Food for Soul and them dirty red dogs hit the do…'”
But don’t get me wrong, they don’t rely on Jay-Z’s liberal interpretation of imitation (or biting) being the highest form of flattery to their heroes. In fact, the parts of the album that don’t sound like it was produced in the The Dungeon during the mid-90s are its highlight.
DJ Kno orchestrates a masterpiece theatre which features multiple interludes which serve as effortless instrumental segues to Deacon’s narrated sinful themes like their hood’s way of life on “Nothing To Give,” a Crash-like racial narration featuring Tonedeff at “The Gates,” and a love song to everyone’s favorite Mary on “Beautiful Girl.” Kno, who was the group’s second MC on CL’s first two albums has allowed newest group member Natti fill his vocal role and now elects to strictly handle the beats. And it’s Kno’s essentially southern, but not regionally biased, sound that gives this album it’s cohesive yet diverse feel. Especially in his excellent usage of guitar throughout the album, it’s almost as if Kno chooses to speak through the beats and his best verses are his guitar solos.
This album is a multi-layered refreshing sound for the ’06 that is open for many interpretations and comparisons. Now listen for yourselves.
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Some classic OOP shit mixed in here so be sure to grab it…
K-Solo – Time’s Up
Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz – Make It Reign
AZ & Mobstyle – Game Of Death
TRU-Hangin In The Hood Maxi Cassette (1992)
Kingpin Skinny Pimp – 2000 Rap Dope Game
Brand Nubian- Fire in the Hole
Brand Nubian- Foundation
Eric Benet – A Day In The Life
Isley Bros – Beautiful Ballads
Marcus Coleman – Marcus Coleman (2005)
Boyz II Men – Greatest Hits