LA COSA NOSTRA – Just Doin’ Our Thang
(2005 United Records International)
From the first beats of the first track on La Cosa Nostra’s inaugural release, Just Doin’ Our Thang, there was promise. This big club track, “Bend n Raise,” has a unique beat, a big tone, and a solid, sing-along chorus. I was excited. I love local hip-hop and this scene has been tossing out so much good hip-hop music that I was thrilled to find a worthy addition to our local roster. However, my enthusiasm was short-lived. Clichés began to creep in from the sides, the songs stretched on too long, repeating their themes over and over, and the lyrics delved into the familiar and regrettable refrains of bitches and money.
K-Mone$, Freak-A-Style and P-Killah all have talent in certain ways. They flow well, bouncing through these club tracks with a practiced rhythm and confident delivery. In fact, the unique Africanized delivery is utterly infectious and quickly becomes the most endearing aspect of this album. And these elements are brought together with solid, seamless production that constantly pushes the low-end thump while the vocals sit in just the right spot.
But then things start to fall apart. First, each of the three emcees thanks Jesus or God or whoever in the first lines of their personalized thank yous. But their faith is absolutely absent from their lyrics. For instance, on “Girl,” the chorus repeats the line “Girl, is that your original ass / Or is that the extended version? / ‘Cause its extra, extra / Makes me wonder,” or “I’m the man with a cock and two balls / Y’all pussies and confused like RuPaul” and “Hoes fly to my cock” from “Stay Spittin’.” Occuring in the very same song are the words, “I’m a true Christian” and “If you mess with me, I won’t kill you / But put you through castration / Lose your balls and your future generations / Say goodbye to penetration” and “See the broads on the strip that be eying my whip / The nigga with the big dick, boss terrific… / Butt naked, fucking bitches two at a time” from the unoriginally named “Mind On My $.” This critique is not about being offended. Hell, I prefer some straight up filthy, hard lyricis to this. It’s just far too typical in hip-hop for misogyny and violence to be served up with some professed spirituality.
La Cosa Nostra, who received a MAMA nomination for this album, has definite talent. The tracks are dope, recalling some of the best of old-school underground, mixing R&B vocals in with finesse (though never crediting the vocalist). This disc sounds big, the performances are tight and the production is as close to perfect as you’re likely to find in the local hip-hop scene. But when the words betray contradictory ideologies while simply confirming the stereotypes that plague hip-hop, it becomes a liability to this scene. Local hip-hop has worked hard to establish a reputation for intellectual, unique and forward-thinking urban music. La Cosa Nostra falls short of this ideal, crafting excellent music with regrettable and tired lyrics. Hopefully their next album will hold onto the musical strengths and abandon the unfortunate and unnecessary violence and sexism.