Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Review) - Idol Threat: Warning Shots at the Mainstream


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Review)

So Madlib is really starting to make me feel like he can do no wrong. The volume and consistency of his solo and side project releases alone are reason enough, but after making the classic Madvillainy and solid bangers with Talib Kweli and the late J Dilla, I’m starting to think that he is THE go-to guy when it comes to producing albums. More proof of this can be found with Strong Arm Steady’s latest release “In Search of Stoney Jackson” which happens to be completely produced by Madlib.

Strong Arm Steady formed as a loose California collective that eventually shrunk down to a group of four that included famous Alkaholiks/Dr. Dre affiliate Xzibit. Xzibit left the group in 2006 leaving Mitchy Slick, Phil Da Agony and Krondon as the remaining members. According to Stones Throw “In Search of Stoney Jackson” is basically a Hip Hop jam session between ‘Lib and SAS. Apparently the album came about thanks to Madlib’s fellow label mate J Rocc who sent Strong Arm Steady over 200 Madlib beats to work with. I always thought that the SAS featured track on the Talib Kweli/Madlib collabo “Liberation” was one of the album’s strongest cuts and this new album shows the obvious chemistry these two entities have.

Best of Times feat. Phonte

The album starts off with the single “Best of Times” featuring Phonte, which may be the reason why the beat has a Little Brother feel to it. It’s a solid single, but the mellow beat and Phonte's singing may throw off fans used to Strong Arm Steady’s more raw style. And although the rest of the album isn’t that much grittier the song still doesn’t serve as a good introduction to the overall feel of this record. Albums usually work best when they aren’t riddled with an abundance of guest appearances that takes focus away from the main artists, yet In Search of Stoney Jackson works because of the fact that they have a multitude of guest MCs. The guests tend to pick up the slack whenever Strong Arm Steady lags behind or wears out their welcome, and some of the guests even fit better over Madlib’s production than the SAS members do-one guest in particular being Planet Asia who appears on 4 of the 13 non-instrumental tracks. I’ve always loved Planet Asia’s flow but felt he’s been stuck with lackluster production for the most part (a problem that many dope MCs face.) Planet Asia’s got just the right amount of grit and rhythm to fit perfectly on Madlib beats, he’s definitely an artist that would benefit greatly from a Madlib produced album.

While the soulful and funky production may sometimes sound slightly out of place underneath SAS, the album excels in its creative subject matter. The single brings our nations recent economic woes to light through the different perspectives of SAS and Phonte, spitting insightful lyrics like “It make me think about the loot I shell out / If times get tight, will the shows still sell out / Po’ folk need help, they call it welfare / But rich folk need it then ya’ll call it a bailout” while songs like “Chitlins and Pepsi” talks about healthier eating habits and lifestyle choices: “Try a diet like Russell Simmons / Datin Vegetarian Vegan Women / Drinking water with lemons.” The stellar production is all strung together by scattered instrumentals and interludes, some of which are so good you almost wish they were fleshed out to make full tracks. The record really starts gaining momentum with the Talib featured “Get Started” which would have made a much better single than “Best of Times.” It also makes a good starting point for the last half of the album (or Side B for those that remembers cassettes.) The rest of the songs really start bringing more of the boom bap sound you would expect from the meeting of these underground giants.

Albums are more cohesive and flow better with one producer behind the beats (Raekwon's sequel to Only Built for Cuban Linx being a recent exception) and this album is a perfect example of this. The production is solid though SAS may falter somewhat compared to the stellar guest stars, which remains this albums strength and curse, but they make up for it with refreshing topics and an obvious enthusiasm. It’s collaborations from respected artists like these that succeed in creating hype by making this an event rather than using gimmicks, and it’s consistency throughout makes it worthy of all the expectation.

Buy it Here: Stonesthrow Records
Or Buy it at your local record store & support local business: Record Store Day Store Finder

No comments:

Post a Comment