Noble is a voluble presence on the Hip Hop Congress's Frontline Listserv: as congress chair, he directs resources for a burgeoning population of MCs, DJs, and activist gadflies. He also leads workshops with Rahman Jamal and B-Jada at San Jose's Academy of Hip-Hop, teaching kids, in his words, "a holistic approach to emceeing." Thus, because he is a conscious hip-hop dude par excellence, many folks will like this album on principle. It's definitely worth checking out: Shamako has a well-honed -- if not formidable -- battle style, and he could easily go toe-to-toe with most of the new starlets on Hiero Imperium.
That said, this fledgling MC also has plenty of room to grow. Return's main shortcoming is its insensible pairing of rhymes and beats. Shamako's voice gets muffled as it pitches between the hulky tracks laid by his various producers (the cabal includes B-Maniac and Bill Tanner). That wouldn't matter if he were a darker and more sinister lyricist, because you'd be more interested in his psychology than his producers' studio effects. But his lyrics aren't potent enough to steal the spotlight -- on the cut "L.O.V.E.," he even crosses the line between conscious and cloying.
Still, you'll like Shamako the same way you liked Feenom Circle and the Procussions: He'll easily co-opt that whole population of earnest, irony-deficient heads Feenom seduced with the self-coined term "middle ground." In the end, give the young MC props for demonstrating a firm commitment to social justice, wherein he puts as much energy into holistic workshops and Vote for Kucinich campaigns as he puts into recording. On the music side, though, he has to step up his game.
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Seven Days - January 18, 9:41 AM