With all of its different shades and textures, rap music is still very much about sharp lyrics laid over head-nodding beats, verses that can be quoted and bass that can be felt. On their debut album, "Men of Many Crowns," MC Moodswing King and producer W. Steele deliver exactly that: a lean outing of songs that highlight clever bar work and rich production.
The duo start off in royal form as Mood declares, "King me.../This is something like the taste of winning [Get use to it]/See my perception from these Girbaud denims," sounding assertive and cool as he snakes his way around W. Steele's horn stab intro. There's a quiet confidence that pulses through the project. It's self aware but also self assured: Moodswing doesn't feel as if he's pressing or trying too hard, and Steele doesn't get lost trying to out do himself. They play to their strengths, color within the lines and complement one another.
If the beat is high, Moodswing is low. If he's over, the track is under. It's sonic synchronicity that feels like a natural pairing based on similar tastes, styles and attitudes. Nothing sounds forced or fabricated. They know exactly what they're going for and exactly what works for them.
"Doobies in the Deep End" finds them "Cooking tracks up in the studio/That's cocaine dope" and "Making classics/'Cause those lames don't." While "Visions of the Coast" has the Moodswing King gliding over guitar wah wahs and rolling snares. He's fluid and smooth, paper chasing, with an eye out for fakes and police as he grinds, "Trying to get it like a f------ free mason/Through hard work and dedication."
The BPMs slow down a bit on "Oprah," but that doesn't slow down the album's sense of urgency as Bam Circa86 joins in to get open, break it down and roll one up, since they're "going after these goals" while "y'all stay stuck up in that space," with the suckers to the left, as Mood and Bam claim to stay on the right side of winning.
The album is full of rap cockiness and MC bravado, but personal moments pop up too. There's even a hint of vulnerability on "Love Letter" with Moodswing admitting, "I don't even really do this usually/But I'ma take it there," as he then proceeds to run down a long list of virtues that his ride-or-die chick possess.
Whether Mood is talking about his prowess on the mic, relationship with his lady or goals outside of music, there's an underlying theme to the album. Beneath its rap-swagger surface and MC pomp, it's an album about ambition. The desire for more. These are go-getter anthems. It's all very Jeezy-esque -- not so much sonically or lyrically, but in spirit. Even though it may echo thug motivation in purpose, "Men of Many Crowns" still holds true to rap's oldest tradition as Moodswing King simply spits tight rhymes over W. Steele's tight beats.