‘A Piece of Strange’ helps hip-hop artists turn corner
By Pablo Paz
Sure it�s a little different � abstract, if you will.
Going in, there is no doubt that the CunninLynguists expected mixed reactions to their newest record, A Piece of Strange. Nevertheless, Strange has to be the best hip-hop record of the new year.
The CunninLynguists have undergone a transformation since their 2003 release of Southernunderground. Back then, it was the team of Deacon the Villain, Mr. SOS and the super-producing Kno, with just as much reliance on other guest MCs making contributions to the records, such as Masta Ace and Cashmere the Pro.
This time around, SOS is no longer with the group, as he is set to release a solo album titled Dr. Strangelove. Although he is still on good terms with the group, he was noticeably replaced by lyricist Natti.
The change reflects the transformation of the Lynguists. Most noticeably, Kno only spits one verse on the album, on the flawless track Brain Cell. The bulk of the album is carried by Deacon�s amazing lyrics and vocals, but Natti reinforces Deacon�s Southern style and provides more depth and content.
This album is not without its cameos. Immortal Technique and Tonedeff provide perfect guest spots to complement the album but manage not to overshadow the message and story. An unlikely but impressive appearance by Cee-Lo Green on the track Caved In, a tribute to victims of Hurricane Katrina, shows the expansive ability of the Lynguists. But we already knew that.
Although Kno doesn�t rhyme much on the album, he is far from silent. Kno, whose gritty instrumentals have become infamous over the years, handles all the original production and raises it to a new, cinematic level. The musical feel and sampling techniques he employs are flawless, and he�s made it known that he�s looking for other projects and no longer is exclusively producing for the CunninLynguists. He has launched A Piece of Strange Music to contract his beats out to interested artists.
Although the record stays true to the style that built the CunninLynguists, the group is moving forward with new approaches and straight-up good music.
The record even has a Santa Fe connection � portions of the album were recorded here, and the group is signed to LA Underground�s record label. The album is available exclusively to locals at LA Underground and is a must for any hip-hop fan�s collection. Decipher the message. I challenge you.