Nan Knew – 4/5
Nan Knew is a interesting reference. On one hand, they’re saying that no one knew about them, implying people were either ignorant or sleepin. On the other hand you have a Mork & Mindy reference (see 70’s TV show) implying their style is foreign or out of this world. If I’m correct, I would concur on both implications. Not only are people sleeping HARD on the SI crew and namely Cas Metah and especially Wonder Brown, but their style is foreign/out of this world in that they still hold high expectations for their art form and more importantly that their art was created to glorify God almighty. If that doesn’t make you out of this world in our generation and culture…I don’t know what is.
The Way I Cry (feat. Ruffian) – 5/5
This is not only the first release off of the album, but also one of the best and an accurate representation of the feel, talent and message of much of the rest of the album. The track speaks about Cas, Wonder and Ruffian pouring out their passion and heart in music and in general how they have struggled with past hurts/pains. The track calls out to those still struggling in their lives/sin and draws them in as Cas, Wonder and Ruffian share how they can relate.
Mind Bender – 5/5
This is an amazing story telling track. The song starts off with Cas and Wonder arriving back at home to discover their home has been broken into. The samples from this track remind me of old crime shows based in the 40’s. I can imagine the guys recounting their tale to a lone figure in a nearly empty/grimy bar as the token piano player plays in the back and smoke swirls around the room. The track goes into the process of our main characters asking around to neighbors, suspects and others as they try to determine exactly what happened. Definitely not a track to be skipped. It’s rare to hear this level of storytelling in hip-hop anymore.
“But do I? No. Instead I go swimmin in sin again, like, “Shh, I’ll float. I don’t need a boat, I don’t see no sharks.” Til they bite, then I’m like “I don’t need those parts.”” – Cas Metah – Drowning Man
The Same State (interlude) – 4/5
This track is a sample from Bring John Malkovich and may seem pretty random until you realize that Cas and Wonder are from Ohio and rep Cincinnati pretty heavily. I think this fits well and helps connect Nan Knew as the album progresses.
I Know (feat. Lyriz) – 5/5
This could easily become a classic track (at least my my opinion it is). I think the track is summed up within Wonder’s verse. “Though I know I’m made in God’s love you’ll find me struggle…Move on from the corner. Realize the my former, but never run for the border.” This track is all about knowing what it’s like out there, but explaining how they’ve come through and found a new identity or in other words “I Know”. They’re not just making some music, they’ve lived the life and found the other side, giving them a testimony to those still fighting to be free.
In or Out (feat. Soul P) – 3.5/5
I know this is a dope beat, and everyone comes with nice verses, especially after Brown’s killer intro, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t feel this track. It’s not necessarily a track I skip, but it also isn’t something I would intentionally turn on the album to listen to. I’m sure people will disagree with me, but that’s my pair of pennies.
Back and Forth – 4.5/5
This track stays on repeat. The transparency and struggles presented by Cas and Brown are honest and straight-forward. Brown’s verse is heart wrenching and speaks about what many people have a trouble communicating after the loss of a relationship. He talks about the desire to have the relationship back, the deep pain of the separation and how it can cause people to question why they are suffering and even doubt their faith. It is encouraging to hear how in spite of the situation he refuses to turn his back on God, knowing He is what’s most important.
Over and Over – 5/5
Killer Frank Sinatra sample. Nice follow up to the last track and fitting intro to She’s Gone.
“I see these black tears of ink are drippin again as I hold my head underwater swimmin in sin. No hope, no bait, no pole, no wait, how did I end up caught up in your wake with no faith, fisher of men?” – Wonder Brown – Drowning Man
She’s Gone – 5/5
This is by far one of the best tracks on the album. The intro comes in with a haunting, ethereal vocal sample (something like a siren or a banshee). Then come in the drums…BANGIN! If this track doesn’t get your face scrunched up and head movin, I’m afraid to inform you, that you are in fact deceased. Cas confronts the attitudes and behavior of most men in avoiding commitment. Only in this verse, the woman leaves and he is left with the pain that he caused to so many women in the past. Wonder speaks about the pain of being left and the how ultimately the only thing that satisfies or fixes a broken heart to that degree is God.
The Struggle (feat. Freddie Bruno and Holmskillit) – 5/5
Super deep bass line, snappy drums and that tweaked sample are ridiculous. Another banger. The title makes the point of the song. Life is a struggle, but it’s a fight that’s necessary; there are no other options. Uhhh, THOSE DRUMS! Seriously!? Those drums try to break my neck at the beginning of every verse. Freddie Bruno of Deepspace5 fame drops a monstrous verse on this track, not to mention a couple of Pokemon references. It doesn’t seem like that would work considering his verse, but Fred makes it work in the references. This track regularly gets played 5 or 6 times in a row until I get my fix.
Hurt – 5/5
JustMe not only created an incredible instrumental to this track, but his verse and addition to the hook is (as always) exact. JustMe never fails to surprise me with his verses. Poignant, focused and precise. His verse doesn’t seem to leave anything out or include any extraneous material. “Only love breaks hearts, only hurt will learn you, it’s like life be puttin in work to burn you.”
Famous Lovers Pt.2 (feat. Mouf Warren) – 4/5
This track feels like 2 o’ clock in the morning. Cas verse comes from the perspective of a worthless husband who cares just enough about his wife to marry her and wear a mask to make the marriage seem stable and somewhat comfort his children, but behind the scenes he’s creepin with a woman (or women) on the side. Wonder provides a nice hook sounding pretty ghostly as well as a nice verses. Rounding off the track nicely is Mouf Warren of the SI camp.
Bros. On The Run – 4/5
FUNKY! This really reminds me of an RJD2 track around the Deadringer period.
“Sometimes I wonder how my life came to this. Everyday prayin for a few more days of this. I miss my innocence and playfulness. Playin the game of life, but there aint no games in this. Painfulness. Hope that I gain from this. If I go insane from this shamefulness, pray someone else gains from it.” – Copywrite – Drowning Man
Hold On 2012 (feat. Holmskillit) – 5
Hold On is all about enduring till the end regardless of highs and lows. Despite that struggles that will be encountered and the fights that may occur. Hold on and endure till the end because it is more than worth it if you remember the first love that prompted your commitment in the first place. Not to leave it at that, Cas also makes a point to mention the small things that go a long way. The production is by DT of Clan Destined/The VJC and is super laid back (think P.U.T.S. San Francisco Knights). I could listen to this track all day. Good message, good beat.
Drowning Man (feat. Copywrite and Elias) – 5/5
This is my favorite track of the album bar none. From the production of J. Rawls, to the incredible verses of Cas, Brown and Copy, to the soulful verse of Elias, to the message behind it all. This song really impacted me deeply. In the midst of numerous struggles over the past few weeks and feeling like a failure. I not only was encouraged to hear these guys not only share about their failures, but also being so blunt. It’s exactly what I needed to hear and spoke exactly to heart and situation. If I had to pick only one track off this album, this would be it. To add to the track being a knife, hearing Copy’s verse and knowing how the Lord is working is powerfully in his life over the last year is an answer to prayer. I remember hearing Copy for the first time back in 2002 on Deadringer and relating to the pain of losing a father from the track June. Since 2005 after coming to know Christ myself, there has been a heavy burden on my heart for a number of artists, Copy being one.
“I’m a drowning man. Just reach out your hand. I wanna believe, but I just…don’t understand.” – Elias – Drowning Man
Winding Down (feat. Holmskillit) – 5/5
This is a great track to wind down the album produced by Fab Da Eclectic (yes, you can groan at the bad pun). Seriously though, it really does relax and end the album nicely as the last song (even though it’s not the last track). It’s the kind of track that makes you want to start the whole album over again.
The Yah and the Yang (feat. Tony Campolo) – 4/5
Although I’m not sure whether or not the reference reference to the Chinese philosophers is accurate or how theologically sound Tony Campolo is, but the overall message is on point. We have to stand for the core principles of our faith and the convictions placed on each one of us individually, but not to the detriment of others by lacking in compassion. We must be both steady and resolved in our faith and faithful to care for others. If we only stand for what’s right, but can care enough about others to feed the hungry or comfort the mourning, we’re just some clanging symbols.
Overall, the album is lyrically exquisite, content driven, theme focused and instrumentally diverse without straying from the concept of the album. There isn’t a single filler track, but certainly some tracks that struck home more than others. The album is full without being drawn out, coming in at just under 59 minutes. Definitely worth the purchase and another great addition to the Illect catalog. Thank you Cas and Wonder for this album.