.. -->--> review goes here -->When you look for a good rap album, the majority doesn't normally look for a duo from Vermont that's named after a civilization that was eradicated over four centuries ago by the Spaniards down in Mexico. But that is exactly what you should be looking for. The Aztext pack fifteen tracks full of their struggles, triumphs and political agendas to make "Haven't You Heard?" the indie rap album of the year so far. It is strange listening to a two guys from Burlington, Vermont talking about the streets. It's like listening to Dr. Dre covering Barry Manilow, but it works out surprisingly well.
"It's True" the opening track (after the typical intro) interpolates a smooth jazzy beat and the silky vocals of Memms to instantly set them apart from the ho and dough rap that permeates radio and introduces Pro and Learic as two guys who are trying to make it big and hoping that kids will "hang posters of mine." If this is any indication, The Aztext could just make it huge. "Cooler than a frostbite/ Warmer than a hot night" from "Breakthru" is just one of the lines that the Aztext spit back and forth. The Aztext feed each other lines better than almost any duo this side of Eric B. and Rakim.
They also have an agenda. Help out the kids and screw George W. Bush. "Learn to read/ Learn to write/ Learn to talk" is repeated in the chorus of "Learn to Talk" where Pro and Learic chronicle their beginnings in Vermont and trying to break into the rap world dominated by "street rappers from NYC."
The anti-Bush rant is much more biting. On "You Is You," they go off on Bush and the Iraq war: "We got a crisis in the making/ Lots of lives are being taken/ I'm sorry the president had to return early from his vacation/ Where were you when they needed you?/ Oh, you can send 18-year-olds to Iraq to get killed/ But you can't protect your own red, white and blue," and his handling of the hurricanes down south: "Now two hurricanes have left the south stranded/ It's outlandish/ There's thousands of people with wounds that we can't manage." "Haven't You Heard?" is a stunning debut from two talented guys from Vermont. It's filled with strings and brass interlaced with timeless beats and unforgettable lines. If The Aztext don't catch on, then it will be further proof that popular music is not gauged on talent. I hope they prove me wrong.
Reviewed by DJ Strike for www.4elemente.ro Rating: 3.8/5
What are the odds for a relatively new hip-hop act from Essex, Vermont, to reach a wider audience? Practically dismal, however talented its members might be. And yet, The Aztext have done it, thanks to their promotional method of choice - they've secured spots on several specialised radio stations.
The band was put together in 2005 by Pro, joined by Learic and DJ Big Kat. Their first album, suggestively titled Haven't You Heard?, hit the streets in may 2006, on their own AZT Records. Although seemingly debutants, the trio have several years of concerts and projects under their belts. Canadian-born Pro started his MC-ing career in 2000 in Montreal, later meeting DJ Big Kat in Burlington, Vermont, while Learic, originally from Washington, moved to Essex, Vermont, founding Subliminal Messages in 1998, followed by Elementrix, finally ending up as an Aztext member.
Breakthru was chosen to promote the album, reaching most requested track status on 92.1 Kiss FM for three weeks in a row. The lyrics embody the group's beliefs, while the beats signed by Special Weapon (another annonymous talent) instantly get people to nod their heads. The same SW Productions member expertly manipulates a piano sample, turning It's true into an optimistic 20's style jazzy joint, while Pro and Learic give proper respect to their idols. But in order to make it big, besides raw talent you must also have some kind of promotion, with the guestlist being a strong guarantee for the project's quality. This one, although short, offers a few pleasant surprises: Krumbsnatcha (Gang Starr Family member) stands besides Aztext in their attempt at self-definition - Who's With Us? - and authenticity ("Who're you? I'm Pro, flippin' dangerously / Who you be? / I'm Learic, bringing pain to beats / Who's with us? / Krumbsnatcha, Aztext it's official / This is real Hip-Hop, nothing less we gonn' give you!"). Employing Dub Sonata's production skills, Who's with us recommends itself as the second single, with a trumpet sample from Calcutta Transfer. Q-Unique, ex-Arsonists member and author of the recent Street Supreme, plays rough in The Game, while Wordsworth denounces fake MC's on the eponimously-titled track. Besides the high-profile guests, Pro and Learic also teamed up with less-known The Loyalists, consisting of two DJ's - E Train & Touchphonics and one MC - Framework. The end result is Reverie, a catchy uptempo tune about the group's efforts up to the album launch.
The love story between The Aztext and hip-hop culture slowly unfolds thrugh E Train's beats and scratches on Learn to Talk ("Thinkin'in French, speaking in English, and playin' with kids / Who did the opposite, and know what they was sayin' and shit"). The same story continues on Learn to Talk II, that portrays some defining moments of the two MC's lives and careers. The duo's on-stage experience, with names such as DMC, Brother Ali, The Arsonists, Rahzel, Swollen Members, Das EFX, The Beatnuts or Non-Phixion shines through on trachs such as Better Act Like You Know - dedicated to the entire hip-hop community, or When I Say - for which the named McVey and Ewalt match flows with Touchphonics' gritty electronic beats. Diversity is the album's main line, so that after the more serious Something to Say and You Is You, the atmosphere loosens up with 9 to 5 - a hillarious attack against everything the cubicle embodies.
Haven't You Heard? caught my attention by bringing back classic hip-hop, beats stinking of jazz, scratches or violins and vocal samples, topics as amusing as they are mundane, and not lastly, the maturity with wich the various subjects are treated. By far the best example of a practically annonymous group's debut.
Reviewer's choice: Who's Wit Us? (feat. Krumbsnatcha) Learn to Talk
Reviewed by Jeremy Marcoux Rating: 5 stars
Right from the beginning, it's apparent that the listener is in for an audible treat in the debut opus from The Aztext. It's True is the jumpoff, a Special Weapon-LACED(!), piano-lead track with a bassline that would make Primo envious. Referencing a mosaic of legendary & classic hip hop artists, songs & albums, Learic & Pro tell personal accounts of their evolution as emcees, making it obvious that they've been at this for awhile and won't be denied success. The rest of the album doesn't let up. Every song shows the lyrical & musical versatility of seasoned veterans. Producers Dub Sonata, Special Weapon, The Loyalists (E-Train & Touchphonics) & D Rapp come correct on each & every song. Appearances from well-known industry veterans Krumbsnatcha, Wordsworth, Q-Unique (formerly of The Arsonists), freestyle legend Double AB, and The Loyalists. My personal favorite song features only the group, showcasing a menacing & haunting backdrop, provided by E-Train, and lyrical mastery by the duo. The song is The Ultimate Tag Team. I think Pro sums it up well when he said, "Now I been everywhere from cocky to asking why rhyme, but I'm done playin' the sideline, this is now our time!" You can literally feel the effort this group has put forth to get to this point, as well as the passion they have for what they do. I like this song the most because, though not as much of a banger as most of the other tracks, it lures you in. You can close your eyes and envision the pictures these artists paint. It's personally hard for me to maintain attention for a full album. If a song doesn't hold my attention with both lyrics and great production, I lose interest very quickly. I can't stop listening to this album. I rock it when I work out. I rock it when I'm riding around. I'm rocking it now. If you have a true love for hip hop music, culture, and history, this album is a must have. If you appreciate a brilliant emcee rocking the mic with ease, you'll love this album. If you like innovative, funky, visual beats over which said emcees rock said mic; if you like remarkable turntablism displayed at it's finest, this is your album.
The Aztext :: Haven't You Heard? :: AZT Records as reviewed by Matt Tomer for Rapreviews.com 11/14/06 Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
I was a virgin to Vermont hip-hop until the Aztext popped my cherry. It might have been my proximity to the duo, but for one reason or the other, I awaited going to bed enthusiastically. The back of the cover shows the group in typical hip-hop attire, DJ equipment in hand, but instead of a NY park bench, they sit on some stylized wooden L.L. Bean structure with the New England woodland behind them. Not Staten Island, certainly not gangsta, but in itself the photo is a healthy break from the norm; when was the last time YOU caught the Montpelier hip-hop festival?
Whether or not the event exists is beyond me, but if it does, don't be shocked if the Aztext headline. Neither Pro nor Learic reinvent the punch line, nor do they enlighten crowds with thought- provoking narratives. They do excel in connecting with the rest of the rap world, crafting their sound around themes not so far from anything we've already become familiar. As such, they invite challenges they could've done without. In perfect honesty, I would've made a purchase for an Aztext t-shirt if they rapped about moose and maple syrup, but if that were the case, the funky beats and high-profile guests might not have worked.
Without ever delving too deep, Pro and Learic remain true to themselves lyrically, never peppering a generally fun album with any violent lies or drugged-out anthems. When they're on their game, they're a lock to grind out grade-A college radio head-nodders, and on the album's best tracks, that's just what they do. Krumbsnatcha guest-stars on the spellbinding boom-bap of "Who's Wit Us," but effectively illustrates anything and everything hindering the album as a whole. When the beat is bangin,' the Aztext are right at home. When it's dead, they do little to resurrect it. Where Krumbsnatcha will always have the luxury of Premier, the Aztext hope on every track for the kind of production they need. Luckily, when they get it, they know just what to do.
"Haven't You Heard" kicks off tremendously sharp with "It's True," a jazzy banger that's laid my speakers to waste for a week and change. Guest vocalist Memms lends a bit much to a classic loop that doesn't need him, but his hook is a fine assessment: "you know it's true; the music can stop you from feeling blue!" Short, sweet, and appropriate, it feels for an instant like "3 Feet High And Rising" 2006. It's 4:20 of head nodding and as fun as anything this year, but unfortunately, it holds a standard too high for the album to maintain.
"Haven't You Heard" survives, but quickly becomes congested with indirect battling, on- the-come-up monotony and crummy, simulation inspiration. In the mix is second-rate call-and- response on "When I Say," half-hearted political raps on "You Is You," and a good-as-sedated Wordsworth on the disappointingly boring title track. "Ultimate Tag Team" lazily plods along with irrelevant self glorification over a yawning beat, and "Better Act Like You Know" is a fruitless stab at a nasty Premier hook. The beats improve steadily, "Learn to Talk II" and "This Right Here" keeping things lively, but the Aztext continue to emphasize their inability to write a chorus throughout. I was really proud of my nine-year-old bro for coming up with the hook for "Reverie"
"9 to 5" sees Pro and Learic at their conceptual best, frantically and frustratingly reaching their occupational boiling points over a beat that feels like it could pop at any second. It's the most unity the raps ever achieve with their backdrops, but the track works in balancing the album's lopsidedness. Pro and Learic are both good emcees, but their vocals fail to put "Haven't You Heard" in motion when the beats can't. Rather, they compliment the bangers and each other very nicely, and even put little ol' VT on the map. It was my first time going this way, but like it or not babe, I've had better.
The Aztext - Haven't You Heard Review By Mike Brown for certifiedhiphop.blogspot 3/4/07
In the US, most variations of Hip-Hop usually emerge from one of the following states - New York, California, Atlanta, Virginia, Chicago and a few others. But who would have thought that out of Vermont (yes, the Green Mountain State) would come a strong debut indie Hip-Hop album? Judging by the title of their debut album Haven't You Heard?, Burlington, Vermont-based The Aztexts surely think so. Comprised of Pro, Learic, and DJ Big Kat, the trio provides an album filled with influences from various forms of music and Hip-Hop from across the country.
On "It's True", a saloon-esque piano (think 1950's) forges with the boom-bap of New York drums (think 1980's) and creates an ode to the history of Hip-Hop and feel good music. Both Pro and Learic sound comfortable with their delivery, and that makes the song so enjoyable – not to mention the subject matter. A Hip-Hop appreciation song is like performing a gospel song at Apollo's Amateur Night – you will always get applause from the audience. A favorite song among Colleges and Universities is "Who's Wit Us", where the group rocks alongside Krumb Snatcha. It's no surprise that this song has become so popular - the beat hypnotizes the listener while they style all over it. As they said "Real Hip-Hop/ Nothing less they gon' give you". "When I Say…" could have, and should have, been left off of the album. The beat sounds annoying at best and the whole experience sounds completely unnatural. The hook (When I Say/ What/ You Say/ What/ We Say/ What/ We all Say/ What) sounds something like a losing song from Vh1's White Rapper Show, and I expect more from The Aztext.
Overall, I didn't like the album. Except for the aforementioned tracks along with a few others, the album either sounded too repetitive or just boring. Yes, it's a polar opposite to mainstream music and they both do have talent. Yes, the messages and themes of the albums uphold the sanctity of Hip-Hop's social element. Yet as well as the rhymes are written, some of the best recited verses still sound written – there's a lack of natural ease with the delivery. Attempting to listen to the entire album sounds less like music and more like a rhythmic speech over repetitive beats. Even biographical songs are lacking that certain flair to make them interesting. Although I didn't fully like what I heard, my ears are open for their next effort.