The CunninLynguists, comprised of Deacon The Villain and producer extraordinaire Kno, have spent the last few years gliding under the radar in relative anonymity despite impressive work. 2001’s “Will Rap For Food” and 2003’s “Southernunderground” were wildly applauded by those in the “know” (pun intended). With rich lyrics and stunning beats, the fellas proved that Outkast and Goodie Mob weren’t the only southern boys who could deliver funk with a conscious. But the obvious difference between the Dungeon Family’s most distinguished and the ‘Lynguists is sales. Why is this? Well, here’s my theoryâ€¦
Let’s be honest: the underground hip-hop scene has gotten embarrassingly diluted in the past few years. Like any successful enterprise, when one product catches fire, the next thing you know there thousands of Tickle-Me-Elmo copycats everywhere (damn that was annoying). That’s what’s happening in hip-hop now. Everyone and his brother, backpack or street, wants to drop an album. I’ve even read a magazine interview where a well-known underground artist admits to releasing as many albums as possible (a few albums per year) at the expense of quality to combat bootlegging. As a result, with so many albums dropping every Tuesday, legitimately great artists like the CunninLynguists are lost in the sea of mediocrity. That’s why sites like RapReviews.com are consistently getting more traffic. People have no idea which of the twenty albums to buy on any given week.
Well if it’s any consolation, your boy One Line is letting it be known: COP THIS ALBUM. “A Piece of Strange,” the ‘Lynguist’s third effort, is incredible. Kno has quickly become one of my favorite beatmakers. “The White Albulum,” his take on Jay-Z’s “last” album, was considered one of the best “The Black Album” remixes created. The momentum continues on this album. From laid-back to funky trunk, Kno conquers all musical styles. Not to be forgotten is Deacon’s lyrical prowess. While I have to acknowledge that he’s frequently overshadowed by Kno’s amazing backdrops, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hold his own. That’s like saying Scottie Pippen sucked because MJ always out-shined him. Scottie was great in his own right and so is Deacon. And yes, Kno is THAT good.
No song demonstrates the strength of the yin and yang better than “Beautiful Girl.” Kno brilliantly employs a sped-up sample here (he does this throughout the album) alongside subtle drums and peppy horns to create the perfect “Sunday afternoon in July” vibe. Deacon comes through with the wordplay, verbalizing a clever love song to “Mary Jane.” Needless to say, it’s a concept track:
“Love so strong it can’t be wrong for her to share with another
‘Long as she touch my lips and fingers, fuck it, we’re swingers
‘Cause it’s Jane that keeps me sane from what the world gon’ bring us”
“Nothing to Give” is another standout track. Kno contributes dramatic piano keystrokes and a clapping drum as the emcee delivers ferocious lyrics about the real evil that goes bump in the night:
“We no longer seek light to give us power
That voice gets hushed by the rush of the witching hour
The touch of the wicked cowards that lurk in the dusk
And even tired heathens ride, searching for bucks
Anonymous and corrupt, assures obscurity
And a spell under its veil in impure security
We love it in our spirits ’cause we suckas for lust
Most even fuck in it, we too ashamed to be just”
“A Piece of Strange” is solid front-to-back. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better album than this one. Three superb albums deep, it’s about time the Cunninlynguists blew up. Blame the rap game. It shouldn’t have taken this long.