With Statik Selektah repping Brooklyn these days more than Lawrence, The Perceptionists seeming perfectly content with not making a follow up to 2005’s Black Dialogue, and it being over a year since the passing of Guru, Boston’s hip hop crown is up for grabs. And the heir apparent seems more than likely to be Ben Affleck’s favorite white drug dealer typecast, George Carroll, better known as Slaine. But A World With No Skies 2.0, a made-over re-release he’s described as giving birth to the same baby twice courtesy of the label run by Daddy X of 2006’s High Times “Band of the Year” Kottonmouth Kings, is nothing for the Beantown beast to boast about.
“Black Horses” is a hook-less rant of an intro in which Slaine complains about how “hawd” it is, concluding, “My childhood was stolen from me, fuck it now I’m trapped in it.” “Voices of Apocalypse”, the first of several depress-fest jams declares, “It’s why I stay high and I curse into mics / Cause death is the only thing certain in life.” And to top off those two downers from the leaked AWWNS, we get “99 Bottles”, an obnoxious frat-house beer pong sing-a-long that definitely didn’t need to be included on 2.0.
The first new track on AWWNS 2.0 is “When I Shoot You”, in which Slaine expresses his disdain for the classic double standard, “If you shoot me, you’re famous / If I shoot you, I’m brainless / So what am I to do?” On “Can’t Go Home”, Slaine takes a more mainstream preachy approach—think Brother Ali meets Eminem on Relapse; while “You” spotlights classic Slaine over a dope beat doing what he does best—spit.
“Jumpin’ Out The Window” is an apparent suicide ballad featuring a weak hook from Cyrus Deshield and an average verse courtesy of Boston hip hop’s favorite drunk uncle, Edo G, delivering the same lukewarm tenacity as on this year’s A Face in the Crowd. “Crazy”, featuring B-Real and fellow Boston emcee Jaysaun, hooks you with a harpsichord-heavy beat and an above-average Slaine hook; however following a veteran verse from B-Real, Jaysaun’s bars come off particularly amateurish, “In my middle school locker I had a bottle of vodka / Took a shot at lunchtime, sprayed my breath with Binaca.” But that Renaissance Fair beat never loses you, through the good and the bad verses.
The memorable features on AWWNS 2.0 are found on “The Boulevard”, a boom-bap banger in which Slaine comes out strong, outshining Blacastan, only to then be ousted by two of the year’s stronger guest verses, courtesy of New York heavyweights Sean Price and Ill Bill. The least memorable features follow on “Broken”, when V-Nuckles and Cyrus Deshield display a laughably-emo attempt at a hook, “I just don’t know why my eyes won’t cry / Guess that they’re broken / These lies mask and disguise / My past I can’t hide, I guess that I’m broken.”
The final serving of A World With No Skies 2.0 delves deeper into the more radio-friendly tracks (“Where My Heart Is” and “Borrowed Time”), hitting the mark on “Ghosts”, another look back on the Boston hooligan’s upbringing over a DJ Lethal club banger. But the coup de grâce of the album is “The Last Song” in which Slaine is graced with a growl-chorus from everyone’s favorite 90’s acoustic guitar-strumming white rapper (NO, NOT MARK McGRATH!)… Everlast! Expect to hear it in the Army National Guard music video you’ll painfully have to sit through the next time you get to the movies early.
For a guy whose life is pretty damn good these days, Slaine raps a lot about death and suicide on such “upbeat” titles as “When I Shoot You” and “Jumpin’ Out The Window.” This album at times is just a bummer; it doesn’t seem to have that dirt-beneath-your-nails Boston hip hop grit. It could have helped if Boston emcees like Mr. Lif and Moe Pope were tearing it up alongside the rapper/actor, rather than weak and unenthused verses from Slaine’s Special Teamz-mates, Edo G and Jaysaun. Ten months later… A World With No Skies 2.0 isn’t much of a step up from its first incarnation, retaining seven songs from the original release, only a few worthy of second spins), but there definitely is enough on these 2.0 albums to establish that the Boston hip-hop crown is within his reach.
Voices Of Apolocalypse[audio:http://kevinnottingham.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2-Voices-of-Apocalypse.mp3]
The Boulevard feat Sean Price, Ill Bill & Blacastan[audio:http://kevinnottingham.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Slaine-The-Boulevard-ft-Blacastan-Sean-P-Ill-Bill.mp3]