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Bambu: Exact Change

By Zoneil Maharajreviews
Nov 11, 2008 - 4:42 PM

Listen to "Quit"

We elected our first multi-ethnic president in a sweeping victory last week. Our president-elect’s promise of change inspired millions to vote. The election alone is a great leap forward for our often backwards nation, but decades of neglect have no doubt left our blocks jaded. The kids are now paying attention to politics, but until we start seeing some improvements in our quality of life, we’ll continue to rely on community leaders like Los Angeleno Bambu who, rather than making empty promises, combines activism and art to promote real change.

His third and latest solo album, Exact Change, presents a more focused and calculated Bambu. As he says on “Quit,” he “only says important shit like a prison visit.” Each song is a call to action, and at times, a call to arms. Though he’s less militant this time around—fatherhood seems to have tamed the lyrical beast—Buck Taylor the Monster creeps out every now and then, namely on bonus joint “Iron Bam” where he flexes his lyrical dexterity and flips double-time rhymes over stomping drums and a Black Sabbath sample. And, of course, he refuses to bite his tongue when it comes to criticism. “Like Us” takes shots at everyone from politicians to wack rappers.

You can always count on Bambu to drop quotables. On “Crooks and Rooks,” a plug for streetwear brand Crooks and Castles that could have gone south on some sellout shit, he still drops conscious gems like “Our people are the same; it’s the map that divides us.” Even still, a shout out to a successful independent, minority-owned business is welcome over fools yapping about dropping stacks on shoes from a multinational corporation employing sweatshop labor any day.

Bambu "Crooks & Rooks" Teaser from Xylophone Films on Vimeo.

And word to Ed O.G.—in the sex-filled world of hip-hop where bastard rappers promote and perpetuate misogyny, it’s refreshing to hear an emcee take a stand for fatherhood. “Seven Months” acts as both a diary entry and letter to his then-unborn son, revealing the fear and joy of fatherhood while relaying the changes he’s making to become a better man. Similarly, “Misused” finds Bambu reflecting on what’s shaped his views today and handing down life lessons to his son.

Equally important in the creation of any album is the production, and Bam seems to have taken extra caution when selecting beats. Illmind, Amp Live of Zion I, Sabzi of Blue Scholars, 6Fingers, Nick James and others keep heads nodding to Bambu’s lessons. Despite the number of cooks in the kitchen, the sound is cohesive and compliment Bambu’s style, shifting from the hype eye-for-an-eye anthem “Swing” to the somber soundscapes of “Lifeline” and “Misused.”

Back in September at his album release party in San Francisco, Bambu announced that Exact Change would be his penultimate solo album so that he can focus on his family. Props for making that move, but one more Bambu album won’t be enough. It’s artists like Bambu—not shady politicians—who will reach and inspire the youth on our streets, and hopefully, exact some real change.


Zoneil Maharaj is editor-in-chief of Oh Dang! It takes him two months to write a CD review.

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