(Backbone Records, CD)
Burlington's The Loyalists are proving that quality hip-hop isn't just an inner city phenomenon. One of a few local rap acts to rhyme convincingly about life in the Green Mountains, the band's sturdy tunes stay true to the genre's past, while maintaining a sharp modern edge. Their sophomore CD, Get What You Give, showcases the group's strong lyrical and production skills, raising the bar considerably for other local hip-hoppers.
Formed in 2001, The Loyalists feature the crafty turntable/production work of E-Train & Touchphonics, as well as the spirited, punchy flow of MC Frameworks. From an engineering angle, the new disc is top-notch -- it actually sounds better than many popular national releases. The hooks are definitely old-school, but in this day and age of computer-assisted slicing and dicing, it's refreshing to hear head-nodding breakbeats and record scratching.
Following a brief spoken-word intro, the record kicks off with "Easy Street," a quicksilver verbal account of the group's origins. "Called Touchphonics a year ago, dialed the phone/Still in Boston, and told him in a serious tone/We have to finish what we began, do you accept/Coming back to Burlington and building our rep?" Framework spits over a tinkling piano sample and tough-as-nails rhythms. Loaded with hip-hop braggadocio, the song's tale of underdogs coming together really gets your blood pumping.
The title track bounces relentlessly as Touchphonics attacks hip-hop poseurs and opportunists. "We are The Loyalists, on the rise/Much more than oil is/These rappers are spoiled kids/Starving for attention," he confidently blasts. I have to say, this guy is one of the most talented rappers I've heard in awhile, in or out of the Green Mountains. Smart, willful and rhythmically clever, he weaves around the beat like a pro -- here's hoping the rest of the world gets the chance to hear him.
"Golden Rule" features local superstar Craig Mitchell, whose soulful voice adds an extra layer of class to an already solid cut. Touchphonics counters Mitchell's smooth croon with fiery charisma. "More underground than the Ark of the Covenant/Step up and you're gonna get done with," he raps menacingly.
And the rugged beats and lyrical invectives keep coming: Pound for pound, Get What You Give is one of the most consistently satisfying local releases I've heard yet this year. Get on The Loyalists tip now. You'll be rewarded for it.