Syntax Records (October 5, 2010)
Review by SSRC
In life, it’s always easier to start something then to keep it going. I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone tell me that they are good at getting something started but not following through. I think that principle applies in the Hip Hop biz as well. How many times have we heard an artist or label promise us the world, deliver a strong first product and then never to be heard from again? Enter Syntax records and their Night Owls series. It started in 2001, with a format of original songs from some of the scenes bigger names, meshed with some of the up and coming artists that people might not have heard of yet. At the time, it was a good look for the label and a great tool for fans looking for some good hip hop. 9 years later, they are still going strong with release number 5.
Syntax records has not deviated from it’s original format on the first 4 volumes. You have big name artists like Rhema Soul, Braille, Kaboose, Redcloud and Freddie Bruno joined by lesser know names like Jupiter 7, Billy Bo, Phynite and Michael Mannaseh. It’s a little bit of everything put together to make a true compilation in every way. What I have always appreciated is that the label does not take existing songs from the artists’ albums. All of the songs included can only be heard on this compilation so, if you are a fan of any of the artists, it’s worth picking up.
What stood out the most for me, was that the bigger named artists ended up delivering the best tracks on the album. Usually, you get a mix of stand out tracks from the established artists and the new artists. However, on this volume, it was really the tried and true artists that peaked my interest the most. The album starts off with Rhema Soul and a track called “Back When.” I had not heard much from Rhema Soul but after watching the video for “Fly Away” and now this track, it is definitely a group that is on my radar. “Back When” starts off with a catchy vocal sample and then the drums come in, and all 3 rappers deliver strong verses about their lives growing up and what helped them change. In the song, “As Just Cause Cries,” Citizen Aim (R.I.P.), who might be new to some but has been around the scene for awhile, delivers an underground banger with deep lyrics and a dark beat that complements the track. You will have to give this song multiple listens because he drops a ton of knowledge in this one. Listening to this song by Citizen Aim is a reminder that we lost a talented emcee.
Kaboose who had a strong presence on the last Night Owls compilation is back again with “Get Right”. On a bouncy beat by Tony Stone, Kaboose reminds us not to look at the past but use today to get things right. This is not the first time I’ve heard Kaboose rock over a Tony Stone beat and I really hope it’s a trend that continues. Braille, who I think has been on every volume of the Night Owls, keeps his standard of excellence intact on his song, “Static For Dinner”. In this track, Theory Hazit is on the beats and he loops a piano sample to perfection. Braille talks about how his life has changed but how he still finds time to go in and rip the mic. Other stand out tracks on this compilation include; “My Position” by Freddie Bruno, RedCloud and Jeremiah Bonds, “Relying On God” by Phynite and “Fite Night” by Braille, Kaboose and RedCloud.
The Night Owls compilations have been pretty good at keeping the wackiness to a minimum. That is consistent in volume 5 as well. The problem that arises, is that a lot of the lesser known artists don’t standout and therefore, they are in danger of the skip button. La Guardia is a talented emcee but “The Dream” is a mediocre track that is in-between two banging songs which means it gets lost in the mix. Other tracks like “This Road,” and “Earthquake Music,” are also not bad but they just don’t measure up. You are going to run into this problem on any mix so it’s not anything new but worth pointing out. The production is above average on this compilation as top beatsmiths’ like Tony Stone, G-Styles and Shane Newville all deliver and make you take notice.
Syntax has been in the business of Hip Hop for many years and this compilation demonstrates that they still know what works in the market. Night Owls volume 5 is another strong release that not only will introduce you to some of the artists Syntax has to offer, but it will give you a chance to hear some artists that you might not be familiar with. I am sure we will see a sixth volume at some point and I hope to hear some of the up and coming cats outshining the veterans. I also look forward to another dose of top notch Hip Hop to add to my Night Owls collection.
For fans of: Kaboose, Braille, Humble Beast and KJ-52
Night Owls 5 lineup:
1. Bird Flu
2. Rhema Soul – “Back When”
3. Citizen Aim – “As Just Cause Cries”
4. La Guardia – “The Dream”
5. Kaboose – “Get Right”
6. Motion Plus – “Family Tree”
7. CookBook – “Insomniac”
8. Jupiter 7 – “Basics”
9. Michael Mannaseh – “Earthquake Music”
10. MaxOne – “Least Resistance”
11. Phynite – “A Beautiful Thing”
12. Braille, Kaboose, RedCloud – “Fite Nite”
13. Sundance, Nomis, Jeremiah Bonds – “At It Again”
14. Man of War – “Words”
15. Praverb the Wyse – “Relying On God”
16. Braille – “Static For Dinner”
17. BillyBo – “This Road”
18. Freddie Bruno, RedCloud, Jeremiah Bonds – “My Position”