November 24, 2006

CD Review: Potluck - Straight Outta Humboldt

When one does not have an extensive background in the hip hop world, how does one approach reviewing a hip hop album? Well, they try the best they can. I am always open to trying my hand at a variety of styles, although I tend to stay within the confines of hard rock and metal, more familiar territory.

I first heard Potluck earlier this year when I went to see Twiztid in concert. They were one of the opening acts, and one that had not been previously announced. Potluck hit the stage with zero fanfare and proceeded to play a half hour set of accessible raps, kicking off each songs beat from a small player right on stage. I was duly impressed at the simple, old school feel of the beats and their down home, pot smoking, no pretension rhymes.

Potluck is comprized of 1 Ton, a heavy set African-American who specializes in laid back easy going flows, and UnderRated, a Jewish man who serves the role of producer and adds a faster delivery in contrast to his partner. The duo hails from southern California, Humboldt county, to be specific. A location they are proud of, and even happier with the locations chief export, weed. They appeared on the underground scene about 6 years ago, releasing a few albums, including Humboldt County High, before making the label debut with this release on Suburban Noize Records (home to the likes of Kottonmouth Kings, Judge D, and hed P.E.).

The album has a raw, intimate feel to it. It is not overproduced, relying on more simplistic beats and rhythms to work with, while helping out their cred with the appearance of guests such as Tech N9ne, E-40, and Kottonmouth Kings. The album has a good flow to it. It is something that is easy to get into, yet I didn't feel a strong connection to it. Perhaps not being a weed smoker keeps this listener at arms length.

Potluck is a good pairing of styles offering varied deliveries throughout the album. I liked it, but I cannot say that I was terribly impressed by it. I like the simplicity of the beats, and the ease with which I could get into the groove. My problems lie in the incessant pot rhymes which seem to comprise the majority of their repertoire. I would think they would be able to expand in some other directions, deliver thoughts in other areas a bit more. Their live show offered more in this regard, with cuts about how they are just simple, everyday guys with no aspirations for the bling-bling world of a lot of hip hop stars. They come across as a pair of guys that would be cool to hang out with, but sadly the music lacks much in dimension.

The album is closed out with the strongest cut, "Funeral" with guests Twiztid. The cut is much more reflective and heartfelt than anything else on the disk. It has a melancholy beat featuring a nice piano and violin motif and a soulful female vocal. If you listen to nothing else on the disk, make sure to spin up this track. Other tracks of note include "Our History," "Rock the World," and "Money Makes the World Go Round."

Bottomline. Not a bad disk, but not one that I would consider a must have. I like the laid back approach, but I would have liked to see more songs reach for something more, like "Funeral" did. The two rappers have a good complimentary style, just wish it went further. Still, it is a decent listen that doesn't require too much on the part of the listener.

Mildly Recommended.


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