Turf Talk 

West Coast Vaccine (The Cure)

Turf Talk's freakish cadence, that improbable (uh, West Coast?) drawl that has him slurring all his urrrrrs and chomping off the ends of his words, gives him an edge over virtually every other rapper to emerge from the Bay Area's defunct hyphy movement. On his latest album, Turf Talk manages to shore up hyphy's good intentions and shortcomings in equal measure to create what might be dubbed a swan song. As for the good stuff, the production — featuring clever, impeccable beats by Bay Area heavyweights Traxamillion, Rick Rock, E-A-Ski, and E-40's son Droop-E — has a way of gripping and manhandling the listener. It's obviously the work of people with a preternatural sense of what makes a hip-hop hit: uptempo rhythms, low-fi instrumentation, and loops that lodge in your brain and stay there. While Turf's rap voice grows irritating over the course of an album (for the same reasons it grabs you at the beginning), his lyrics revel in the immorality and scandal that made hyphy so great — "X," in which Turf and Yukmouth name-check all the top-line brands of Ecstasy circulating in the Bay Area, is perhaps the movement's most specific song about the drug to date.

What doesn't work here is exactly what didn't work in the hyphy movement proper. Turf regurgitates trends that were passé long ago. Moreover, his artistic mission — like hyphy's — is ambivalent at best. West Coast Vaccine begins, insensibly, with a rousing spoken-word track, in which Akronems of Writers Block trumpets: Up out the Western region of the United States of America we breeds nothing but street novelists, poets, hustlers, gang-bangers, and turf-slangers who struggled to own a piece of land in the country that enslaved the black man's miiind. It seems out of place in an album that otherwise lacks principles.


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