Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Tribe & Big Cats: 'Space' (Review)

For the past two years, each time the Tribe and Big Cats release a new album I declare it “their best work yet.” That trend continues with Space, which came out on July 10 and is available for free download. On Space we find TTxBC taking progressive artistic strides that show their evolution as a group. Unlike FTMS (which was good) and Make Good (which was even better), Space eschews any significant contributions from other artists. Leaving this one up solely to Truth Be Told and Big Cats (this is their first full-length since Pete left the group) is rewarding. As a whole, the album holds up very well sonically and thematically, as Space is their most focused effort yet.

It’s no coincidence that the album is titled Space. Big Cats’ production on the album is light and jazzy, which gives the beats plenty of room to breath and unfold. They float in and out across the album, with many songs centering around airy guitar, piano and horn loops or vocal samples. But just when you begin to drift away in the relaxed vibe of the album, Big Cats will accentuate part of the track with a driving synth blast or sharp drums, snapping you back into focus.

Truth Be Told’s lyrics are equally understated and sublime. Always an exceptional lyricist, his abilities are on full display throughout Space. One of his underrated strengths is the simple fact that he usually just sounds cool as fuck when he’s rapping. His delivery comes off smoothly and like he can’t be bothered (NUN FUX GVN). Truth Be Told sounds comfortable on each song, and he’s not going to go out of his way to impress you. But when you sift through the references to Final Fantasy and occasional hilarious boasts (“The worst player ever like Kwame Brown/ and I’m the realest,” from “DMT Flow” is maybe my favorite, also all of “Spaceship”), there’s plenty of substance to chew on. More serious songs like “P.I.L.L.S,” “Seasons” or “Make Your Mama Proud” are equally enjoyable. That the Tribe and Big Cats effortlessly segue through all these songs on Space so cohesively is a testament to the album’s overall sound and sequencing.

While much of their previous work has been great and displayed their vast potential, the Tribe and Big Cats achieve a synergy on Space that elevates it to the next level. It’s their best work yet and, in a year where we’ve already seen many great local albums (surely with more to come), puts them in the discussion of best local releases of 2012.

Stream or download Space below.

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