August 15, 2009

La Coka Nostra - A Brand You Can Trust

A Brand You Can Trust, indeed. Listening to this album is something akin to being reunited with some old friends. You know the gang you rolled with back in high school, when times were simple and parties lasted all night, hell, all weekend, pumping tunes, getting into trouble, you know the drill. This is the glorious reunion, years past your prime teen years, but still looking for a little trouble. You know the phrase: "Putting the band back together," this is it, and just like those reunions the group is not quite the same, all the major players are there, but there are a few new faces in the crowd. You just shake your head, it's all good, any friend of my buds is a friend of mine. Familiar, yet different.

Back in the early 1990's I was in high school and a rock and metal music fan, but there were a few hip hop and rap artists (still not quite sure what the difference is) making an impression. One of those artists was House of Pain. I still love these guys and their three releases. Anyway, when "Jump Around" hit the radio, it immediately became my jam. As soon as those notes sounded, you knew it was on. Unfortunately, the trio of Everlast, DJ Lethal, and Danny Boy split up and went their separate ways. Two thirds of the group found even greater success, Lethal as a member of Limp Bizkit, and Everlast as a solo artist blending his hip hop roots with rock and blues in an intriguing, but softer mix that still remained distinctly Everlast.

l_147077cd06f34eaf8d7726271b12b8bcI always wondered if Everlast would ever get back to the harder edged rhymes and beats after he went soft. You know, it is not exactly an easy thing to go back and forth between the two wildly different sounds that he found success with. I am sure the idea of returning to straight up hip hop was a tough decision, would he still have his credibility? Well, now the questions can be answered.

La Coka Nostra is a new collective featuring Everlast and DJ Lethal. Joining them are a pair of new faces, to me anyway, in Ill Bill and Slaine. Not only that, the album is littered with guest rappers like B-Real and Sen Dog of Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, and Sick Jacken of Psycho Realm. Do you want to know something else? The album is excellent.

The Lethal/Everlast combo is as strong as ever. It brings to mind the House of Pain days, but what slick production and mainstream access they had has been stripped away. This is a reunited House of Pain core that has been chewed up by life and spat back on the streets where they have muscled up and forged ahead, albeit in a harder edged way.

The two I know and the two I don't have formed together as a powerful hip hop force with fierce lyrics and some wicked beats. As you know, I am not a hardcore hip hop fan and a not terribly well equipped to give any sort of educated analysis of the album's content; however, I do now what I like, and I like this.

This is not mainstream, candy-like, head-bopping, make you wanna dance rap, oh no. La Coka Nostra is rough and tumble, told by those who have lived a life of highs and lows and everything in between. This is music made by veterans of the scene intent on schooling the upstarts who don't know what its like.

A Brand You Can Trust does not waste anytime, you get thrust right into "Bloody Sunday" with Everlast delivering with his intense raspy gusto over a beat mixed with a guitar riff. It is like a harder version of a House of Pain cut. It welcomes you in then punches you in the face, proceeding to verbally kick you into submission.

So, after you are inducted with the opening cut, they pick you up, dust you off, and teach you how survive with "Get You By." From there the lessons continue with guest Snoop Dogg on "Bang Bang" where you step past getting by onto how to survive. Everything delivered with crisp beats and raw production.

Track four changes things up a bit. "The Stain" is an emotional track whose style can be seen as a direct descendant of Everlast's solo work. It has a mellower approach and allows Everlast to stretch his pipes with acoustic guitar and live drums behind him. Do not worry, there are raps here as well, delivered by Ill Bill and Slaine.

The record continues with a host of hard raps, killer beats, and songs that are just downright addictive. This is an album that is very easy to get into and if you are a fan of hip hop, you will want to get your hands on this album that is likely to fly under the radar.

My favorite cuts: "Bloody Sunday," "The Stain," "I'm an American," "Once Upon a Time," "Choose Your Side," and "Soldier's Story."

Bottomline. Wow. This really was a surprise. It reignited my love of House of Pain while also making me a fan of La Coka Nostra. There is something about Everlast's voice that is just fantastic, no one sounds like him. All together, this is a solid unit that delivers the goods in convincing manner. Definitely put this on your list.

Highly Recommended.


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