The Never Ending Battle Review By Urbanelite
This is a double cd, 38 tracks in all, put out by LA's 5th Battalion camp along with Digital Aztlan and O.T.W. in aid of the young family of Steve "Cartoon" Rivera who was a member of the group O.T.W. Steve was shot & killed while performing with O.T.W. at a Brown Unity show, a show which was promoting peace. It is a tribute to both Steve & the particular Hispanic community involved that 29 separate groups & artists have come together to make this happen. This is not in mixtape format, but is a full length compilation.
The cds are titled Battle 1 & Battle 2, and while there are obvious hiphop references here, we soon learn what the real battles are for these emcees living within their environment.
With something of this scale, it is only really possible to give you an overall flava of this, both musically & lyrically, and to hopefully represent the message the artists wanna send out. On the sleeve design, there is a group photo of somethin like 50 people, presumably all contributors, and there appears to be a range of ages, and this is the first clue to the bond of unity they all have with one another. There is also a notable absence of flash cars, guns or bling jewellery, and these factors made us wanna listen to 'em.....
So, OK, on the surface there's a lotta positives here...so what about the music itself? The intro states "we all come from a similar place/we're all jus tryin to do the same thing-to survive-and put it down for the minority environment/Cultures might seem a little different, but when you get right down to it, we're all here to represent, we're all human..."
Appropriately enough the first track is from O.T.W., "Ment 2 Be" where the current members dedicate the track to Steve, but where others would have called for revenge, these guys address the indisciminate nature of this and too many other similar incidents, but at the same time call for positivity, wisdom and a refocus of energy of the whole community, a theme followed by El Nuevo Xol in "LA Roots"....Krazy Race in "Illuminati" addresses the belief that the government deliberately turns a blind eye to the killings in the "minority" neighbourhoods in order to serve economic purposes, whether these killings happen in the street or in military service. He questions the "Big Brother" effect and the powerbroking going on of small influential bodies running matters, and that dumbing down via the media is helping to prolong this situation. J Dubs picks up the baton and explains that the weapon of choice against this should be via the use of mental strength, within a street life which offers few ways out and even less protection. His track "Distorted Nights" is again a cerebral battle to change the everday reality for many in similar situations. 5th Battalion then have a dedication track "All for You" for their lost soldier. BATTLE 1 then continues in similar mode, with a variety of subject matter including emancipation from a State imposed ghetto life, misrepresentation of the hiphop artform, being part of the solution instead of aggravating old problems-choosing wisely in difficult times, and the mental discipline required to survive the pressure, to turn the energy of rage into one of positivity to avoid a predictable and already too well trodden path....these subjects are all handled intelligently by Los Tumbados, Thomas Riley, Elements of the Outer Realm, DGroundkeepers, Rhyme Asylum, Nacimos, The Answer, Enhanced Vision Project, Browntown Looters & 2 Grounds Under.
These are all street tales shared by people living through very particular circumstances in a very specific area of LA. As they see it, there is a State campaign which deals with poverty in certain neighbourhoods by adopting a "let them kill each other" attitude. That it is easier, not to create opportunities, but allow the "dog eat dog/natural wastage" rule to apply...let 'em die through drug misuse or gang warfare, or end up in jail,.....that they'll be brought up to believe that they can't be no one anyways-misinformation-so they go down this path systematically. The 5th Battalion fam are sayin, be mentally strong, be positive & unite through peaceful means, and defeat the State by not becoming the stereotype, and by stopping the killings. Sure, we've heard this before from the black communities, but it's no less relevant, cos this is happenin today to these people, and we know this cos they say so through their music-and THAT's the power of hiphop. It's an intense cd, but relevant given the motivation behind it.
BATTLE CD 2 eases the pressure a little, and acts more as a showcase of the high talents these artists have. And this helps make the release an all round and complete package with the buyer in mind. Here, previous contributors are joined by D-Boogie, Ugly Percent, Jupitersciples, La Paz...to name just a few...to produce some top quality hiphop. Flow styles vary all the way...throughout there is spoken word, hard ridin the rhymes, occassionally Spanish rhymes, tongue trippin, meta4ical...you name it, all styles are here.
Musically, the various producers and artists bring their own flavas, but most times there's that latino edge. From big electronic kit & synth based bangers to some really well put together sampled drum loops and clever use of classical, South American traditional & contemporary music & vocal samples, all cut up to pieces to create on occasion some crazy dope effects. There is much use of some great latino piano, brass and guitar loops, and the hiphop can be haunting, big n bold, funky & bumpin and downbeat all within a few tracks. There is even an element of big heavy "rock rap" on a couple tracks, a lil "acid jazz" and some old school electro....CD2 is guaranteed to have somethin you'll lock in to and will get you movin loco!
Whether you feel compelled to buy the album to support a good cause-both financially for the family of Steve Rivera and morally for the fam's struggle-at a cost of $10, you won't get a better buy this year for quantity, variety and most importantly quality.