LUCHA LIBRE- Palntando Bandera
2006 Libreland Productions
Lucha Libre’s sound draws heavily from the Latin influences that were part of these artists’ culture, whether that culture was practiced at a street festival in Puerto Rico or at a house party in Madison. However, the urban drawl and English verbiage that creeps out of the speakers on Plantando Bandera reveals something very different in their makeup.
With a nod to our local hip-hop scene, guests David Muhammad, DJ Newsense, Profound, Young Pre, Dread 1, Marcus and Versitile all show up as guests on this disc. But the stars are the members of Lucha Libre: Da Ricanstrukta, NV1, Mic Virus and Dr. Nono. They build big beats with slick musical samples embedded deep in the grooves. The flow is steady and satisfying with true talent in the way they hit their rhymes. As the music rolls and mutates, the sound remains infectious and entertaining.
However, some of the conventions of hip-hop culture used here have become a bit played. Every hip-hop artist knows they’re played, knows they’re silly and redundant, but they abuse the stereotypes anyway. Lucha Libre falls into these same patterns, with all-too-typical macho hype building up most of the tracks and standard themes of ass-kickin’, big-pimpin’ and cap-bustin’ inhibiting what is otherwise a unique and musically enticing presentation. Lines like “You’re girl had a party in her mouth and we all came” from “Toma” just make it hard to take the words of this act all that seriously. If you’re going to use grade school humor to get you’re point across then only kids in grade school will pay attention.
Maybe I’ve been listening to hip-hop so long that I’m ready for something new to take the lead. The strength of local music production is its independence and ability to quickly incorporate creative and stylistic elements without the baggage of corporate infiltration. But many local hip-hop artists, with some very notable exceptions, have eschewed the influence of home-grown artistic leaders, like dumate, Adem Tesfaye and the Crest, and have continued to embrace the most base and basic thematic representations of hip-hop.
None of this changes the fact that this album bumps and grooves, mutates and sings with a unique sonic energy. Dancehall elements swirl with some stellar breaks and builds. The easy transitions from Puerto Rican style to hip-hop hoodlum breaks and back again keep this album moving forward musically while becoming a bit stagnant from a lyrical stance. However, the flow never falters and the emcees all maintain a slick presence within the beats. That may be why I tend to call out hip-hop acts, particularly talented and creative artists like Lucha Libre, when they let the weaker conventions of hip-hop sour their otherwise intense and new sound. That said, I’m looking forward to this band’s next album to hear how they evolve lyrically and musically. Here’s hoping that they realize that they can say something important without sounding stale.