The Aztext are an oft overlooked group in Independent Hip Hop. That may primarily be because of the fact they hail from ‘under-the-radar’ Burlington, VT. But we all now know that hip hop is not restricted to major metropolitan areas. Hip Hop has reached almost every corridor of the world, and certainly the nation. Once you hear the music The Aztext make, where they are from becomes a moot point.
The Aztext have release a series of projects which focus on enlisting one producer for all of the songs. For the third installment they are working with XPL who I know nothing about at all. The production is indeed a strength of this EP however. I consider it moreso than the other two installments of EPs previously released. The beats are mellow, yet charismatic.They draw you in.
Ol’Skool gives you an indication of where the artists’ heads are at. They stay true to hip hop’s basics. They are not being to over indulgent and rapping about things that have not happened to them or things they do not have. They are about the beats and the lyrics. They are in fact purists.Down The Road is a song that asks the question: If you met the future version of you would you want to know the story of your life or would you rather just let it play out? The songs verses have the emcees play out from the vantage point of the emcees’ younger selves meeting the older versions. It’s an interesting premise. It’s a dope track conceptually and definitely one that I could see getting extended run on the Ipod.
Break It Down is an extremely mellow track that features an emcee that spits better in his second language (English) then some people in their first language. I first ran into Skilltester Stabbone’s music on an EP from Romanian producer, Jupiter. Coincidentally that same EP also featured The Aztext. Obviously a connection was made from that process and a couple of years later they are doing songs together. This song is one that you could vibe to to unwind from a long day. And again, it bears mentioning, Stabbone’s first language is Romanian and he kills it in English. Damn impressive.
The second version of Down The Road is actually my favorite track off of the EP as it has the emcees now writing from the perspective of being the older versions meeting themselves in their youth in the same situations as the first version of the song as heard earlier in the EP. I like how they made two songs relating to once concept but from two unique vantage points. That’s probably one of the most innovative tracks I have heard in a long while. The production is jazzy and incorporates more horn than the original. It’s just a fun song who’s vision is executed to perfection.
Overall when you listen to this third installment of Who Cares If We’re Dope? you get the sense that The Aztext have a great appreciation for hip hop artists who came before them. They aren’t flashy and won’t offer you any corny gimmicks. Their style is steepened in lyricism, dope beats, and the ability to make good songs. XPL gave a very good showing of himself as well on this EP. There was nothing too heavy in his production but yet they did make me nod my head quite a bit. He is definitely on a laid back vibe.
If their website is accurate, it looks like the next project from The Aztext will be produced by Dub Sonata. I am big fan of his work and look forward to when that one will drop. So cop this release and stay tuned for more from the team. if you are interested in the first two installments, just search Itunes and give them a listen.
Rap Reviews The Aztext :: Who Cares If We're Dope Volume 3 :: Elevated Press Records as reviewed by Patrick Taylor The Aztext titled their series of EPs "Who Cares If We're Dope" as a statement about their attitude towards making music. Whatever the Aztext are doing, they are not trying to fit in or fill a mold. They live in Vermont, for one thing, hardly a known hotbed of hip-hop. Their drug of choice is hardcore classic 90s NYC battle rap, the kind of stuff that gets heads excited but isn't the easiest way to move product. It wasn't mainstream in its heyday, and it's not going to revive the flagging record industry today. MCs Pro and Learic focus their energy on lyricism, crafting dense and clever strings of word together, something so out of favor that now it is an exception when an MC is lyrical. If the Aztext were savvy businessmen, they'd just string some random words together with a catchphrase, record 17 versions of it and release it as a mixtape. Presto! Two more based gods are born!
Instead they are going the slower, more thankless route, experimenting with different styles, working with different producers, and trying out different types of songs. Maybe this approach is their way of reaching outside their comfort zone, and maybe it's a way to see what sticks best with their audience. Either way, no one can accuse them of standing still or resting on their laurels.
Each episode has the Aztext teaming up with a different producer, and this time around they pair up with XPL for a mellower sound. "Ol' Skool" is classic Aztext, describing their history in hip-hop and the accolades they've gotten from some of the big names in the game, all over a funky break.The rest of the album is more melodic, with sung hooks and introspective lyrics.
Memms sings the hook on "Nothing I Say," their stab at a hip-hop love song. It's about as successful as most hip-hop love songs, which is to say not very, but they get points for trying. "Down the Road" and "Down the Road (Part 2)" offer two sides of the same story, which is the MCs meeting an older version of themselves. Part one tells it from their younger selves, and part two from their older, wiser selves.
"What if you met yourself down the road And got to hear your story told Would you want to know How it all ends up Or would you rather just spend your life livin' it up?"
It's an interesting idea, and shows the Aztext venturing into Atmosphere territory, abandoning battle rap for insightful storytelling.
Skilltester joins the Aztext on "Break It Down," another mellow track about the hustle and grind of being an MC. The MCs don't let the slower tempo kill their lyricism.
"This all came as a result of careful crafting Even though some thoughts might have been scrawled across a paper napkin It's all part of the process The structure is quite simple but you thought it was complex They're yelling to us 'Hey, Aztext, you're on next' I take a moment to focus and get myself in check Cuz if you don't come correct with your dialect they'll hang you by your neck with it Sign your death certificate That's your own potential kid You get a whiff of it At the least I hope to release something significant When I'm deceased, say 'geez, he was different' My name will live on if there are still people listening Cuz the soundscape changes everyday And it's hard to stay original with catchphrases in your way It's just the language you choose to use to explain your views"
Like the new Has-Lo or Atmosphere records, "Who Cares If We're Dope Pt. 3" is a slow-burner. There aren't any bangers, and the songs are designed to get your head thinking instead of your ass moving. This isn't the best point of entry for people new to the Aztext: the first two volumes are more uptempo and are better starting points. Fans of the Aztext will appreciate how they are expanding their lyrical and sound palette, exploring new sounds and new ideas.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Seven Days The Aztext, Who Cares if We're Dope? Vol. 3 Album Review By Ben Hardy [05.18.11] (Elevated Press Records, digital download)
To the floods and flower buds of spring, Vermont hip-hop trio the Aztext emerge from the studio with the third volume of their serially released Who Cares If We’re Dope? A five-track installment of a four-EP project that began with December’s Vol. 1 and continued with an early 2011 sequel Vol. 2, Who Cares If We’re Dope? Vol. 3 channels all the buzz and energy of a thawed-out Green Mountain State.
Produced by Romanian beatmaker XPL, Vol. 3 is a departure from the futurist soundscapes of the second installment — produced by Touchphonics, of VT expats the Loyalists — and the sometimes frenetically paced Vol. 1 — produced by E-Train, also of the Loyalists. The soulful samples and funky beats of this latest episode provide a comfy nest into which MCs Pro and Learic lay their lyrical eggs.
And it’s on the highest branches of the hip-hop tree that the Aztext do their thing. A single line from opening track “Ol‘ Skool” sums up the group’s high road and wistfully truthful approach to their music: “Hate-rap / With every new Kanye track / it only gets worse / got me dreaming of an ADAT.” Vol. 3 conveys a yearning for the purer, more innocent days of hip-hop before corporate greed capitalized on — and then force-fed us — the bombast and self-aggrandizement that characterizes so much of the genre’s mainstream scene today.
The past, present and future become thematic fodder for the cleverly conceptualized “Down the Road (Part 1),” in which the speaker has a chance encounter with an aged version of himself and must decide whether or not to find out how his life ends up. In a cool twist worthy of a Focus Feature film, the concept is reprised on “Down the Road (Part 2),” only this time told from the point of view of the aged rapper. The sci-fi slant of the two tunes does not overshadow a well-delivered insistence that we embrace the uncertainty of the present and future and do what we love, regardless of possible outcomes.
The solid but underwhelming “Break It Down” features guest rapper Skilltester Stabbone and unfortunately relegates itself to afterthought status. The hook is forgettable, the repetitive string-sound sample more sleep inducing than groove setting. It’s a testament to the strength of the other four tracks that this one so underperforms.
“Nothing I Say,” featuring guest rapper Memms, shows off the Aztext’s sensitive side. A love song of sorts, the ballad impresses with its attention to melody, both in the hook and the verses, which are more sung than spat. MCs who can hit notes (and harmonize)? Dope, indeed.
The Aztext perform their first live show in almost a year on Thursday, May 19, at Club Metronome in Burlington.