The New Classics

April 18, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Rhymefest, The Manual

04.18.09

The Manual

There’s rules to this shit. I wrote me a manual.” – Notorious B.I.G., as quoted in the sample from ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ at the beginning of the first track (after the intro) ‘Coolness’. This “manual” is obviously the underlying theme throughout this project; Rhymefest is looking to give younger fans, but mostly younger rappers, instructions on the genre of music they are involved in. And it all starts with knowing their history.

Rhymefest remains one of the truest hip hop artists out there today in the old-school sense of the term: quick-witted, fun and genuine. It’s a natural fit then, that this mixtape has him going in over several throwback instrumentals, with assorted legendary rappers as collaborators. CL Smooth, Queen Latifah, Gregg Nice, Sadat X & Doo Wop are among the golden-era guests on this release. There’s a three-part ‘Native Tongue Medley’, and a song called ‘Rhymefest vs Big Daddy Kane’ (over BDK’s ‘Warm It Up Kane’), among a few other classic instrumentals for ‘fest to rhyme on.

‘Fest brings some good stuff to every track here, as do all the guest stars. He goes back and forth with CL Smooth on the jazzy ‘Deal’s a Deal’, rocks the mic with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X on ‘Think About It!’, and reminisces about the old days with Doo Wop, Scram Jones & Nature on the boom-bap of ‘Memory Lane’. My favorite song that Rhymefest provides us with though is ‘Rhyme Slow, Rhyme Fast’ with Scram Jones, an uptempo jam with an electronic keyboard loop and some dope ‘Motownphilly’ style drumbeats. It’s a great headnodder, but too short, clocking in under 2 minutes. I’d love to hear a full version of the track for the El Che album, but I’m not expecting Rhymefest to revisit it.

Maybe the strongest cut is ‘Exodus 5.1’ where ‘Fest gets out some aggression over a laid-back vocal sample. He raps about life’s struggles, the church and out of body experiences (What’s the closest you’ve ever been to death? / You ever let your soul levitate over your body and watch you rest?), and it’s the farthest thing from the fun-loving Rhymefest that we’re used to.

The humor is still all over though, like in the Charles Hamilton-diss ‘SuperSonic (Chucky Cheese)’ where he goes in double-time in the final verse:

Revenge of the Nerds but it stars Charles Hamilton..
Cause it’s like I’m battling them all with a javelin
When did it become cool not to be masculine?
Somebody need to go and contact his management.
Feminine, him again, ain’t no way that he can win,
Send him in, throw him in the water for the fishermen.
Everybody tired of him so they call him Michelin.
Leave him on an island all alone like he Gilligan.
Cocktail, is it real? Sippin on a ginger ale.
Sweeter than a Zifandel, lookin’ like a Chippendale.
Sweet n low, here we go, homey I’ll be at your show.
If you try to kick a flow, I’ma throw a Riddick Bowe…

And even the skits are worth listening to at least once, which is a rarity for a rap album. But anyone who heard the Man in the Mirror skits know what type of sense of humor Rhymefest has. In one of the funnier ones from The Manual, he brings in a Brian McKnight-sounding dude to sing ‘Tender Thug’ (Please don’t stand next to me! / I don’t want to catch your bitch-made disease / Cause you’s a tender thug).

With colorful rhymes and dope music to rap over, once again Rhymefest sets a high standard for mixtapes; this time with the help of Scram Jones behind most of the beats instead of Mark Ronson. It’s approached as a real album, and that comes across. If you don’t get any enjoyment out of listening to The Manual, then you have no business listening to hip hop.

Album: The Manual
Artist: Rhymefest
Label: J Records
Producers: Scram Jones, DJ Premier, Animal House, Dub Sanata, Matrax, Nice Peter, Blick
Featured Artists: CL Smooth, Queen Latifah, Sadat X, Scram Jones, Doo Wop, Gregg Nice, Nature, Haffa
Highlights: ‘Coolness’, ‘Deal’s a Deal’, ‘Exodus 5.1’, ‘Goin’ In’, ‘Rhyme Slow, Rhyme Fast’
Rating: 7.5

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