LA Symphony and up-and-comers Syntax Records partner up on this fresh mixtape covering a decade of beats and rhymes. LA Symphony members (FLYNN, Joey the Jerk, Sharlok Poems, UNO Mas, and CookBook) sorted through a collection of songs, rarities, radio drops, remixes, and demos to come up with the 22 original tracks of Unleashed. Joey the Jerk explains that 50 songs are recorded for every album; many of these tracks come from that resource. Fans will enjoy hearing from all eight original emcees: Pigeon John, Joey the Jerk, J Beits, Sharlok Poems, BTwice, Flynn Adam, CookBook, and UNO Mas, as well guest appearances by Posdnus of De La Soul (spittin’ on the universality of music in “Universal”), AWOL One, and brief shoutouts from the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man and R&B favorite Chaka Khan closing out “Passionate.” Production duties are ably handled by Madlib, Flynn Adam, Cookbook, Will,I.Am of Black Eyed Peas, and Pigeon John. The west coast rappers have put in a solid decade, doing over 100 shows a year, and are staples on college radio, TV, movies and even games (the Tony Hawk Playstation and NBA Live Xbox). Unleashed is a very solid follow-up to last year’s critically acclaimed Disappear Here, even blowin’ right by it on occasion with its melodic flows.

Unlike many album intros, opener “DL Drop” isn’t a throwaway, but an up close and personal window into a bit of the group’s early history, the vocals brought sharply out front over a repeating twangy guitar riff. Carpe diem is the message behind the swaying “Idle Times,” and the two tracks together jet familiar listeners right back to the beginning of it all. Percolating pops underscore the tight flow of “All We Know,” and “I Speak” is thick with superb sonic effects and irresistible beats. The powerhouse LA team serves up fierce flows throughout, especially lava-like on standout track “Ball Bounces,” “Copywrite,” and the rock solid “Get Out The Van,” overflowing with instrumental highlights. “C. Rap” lays out the bare unburnished truth about the Christian rap scene over glimmering guitar riffs, and the tight “Up Down” is more of the same.

“Tour Bus” is a case of too much information, rhyming of life on the road, with an unappealing emphasis on body functions, and malodorous mis-functions. A few tracks are just straight-up irresistible groove: “Friday Night Flavas” and the funk-infused “Soul Bros.” A horrendous account of abuse, “Girl, Interrupted” features a melodic piano line, and “You (Mash Up)” is a very palatable mesh of rock and rap. LA Symphony saves the world from lame rappers in “Global Takeover,” rich with sonic effects and humor. But my favorite, on an album full of solids, is the raspy, old-school “Church,” showcasing simmering organ runs and tinny drums that’ll take you quickly back to Pentecostal Sunday service.

Part musical documentary, part celebration, Unleashed reminds us why LA Symphony has held on to their powerhouse status for over a decade.

 

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Release Date: August 14, 2007

Record Label: Syntax Records

Track Listing
1. DL Drop
2. Idle Times
3. All We Know
4. Universal
5. Chocolate City Drop
6. Ball Bounces
7. C. Rap
8. I Speak
9. Love for Art
10. Break It Down
11. Friday Night Flavas Drop
12. Passionate
13. Copywrite
14. Get out the Van
15. Soul Bros.
16. Tour Bus
17. We Came from Beyond Drop
18. Church
19. Up Down
20. Girl, Interrupted
21. You (Mash Up)
22. Global Takeover