May 8, 2008 - 7:58 PM
Pasadena is about to be known for more than just the annual Rose Bowl and parade. It seems as though the SoCal city is experiencing a C.R.A.C. epidemic courtesy of emcees Ta’Raach and Blu, collectively known as C.R.A.C Knuckles. The two recently flooded the streets with their debut album The Piece Talks. Actually, their musical tag team is pronounced “crass” not “crack” and is an acronym for Collect Respect Anna Check.
Not only do these self-proclaimed “aristocrass” of America show a complete disregard and abandon of phonetics, they also stray from anything that would be considered a traditional hip-hop album. There isn’t even any rapping on the quirky opener “Buy Me Lunch.” That’s right: a rap album whose first single contains no rapping. The listener is confronted by singer Noni Lamar’s airy, Macy Grayish vocals over a folksy guitar strumming. The lyrics are cryptic and offer no context clues--something about a Lovelution after spiking and spilling the punch. “Love Don’t” is the most melodic track on the album and arguably the best. Blu puts his surprisingly fit crooning over smooth guitar hooks and reminiscent wall of sound tambourines and drums. There’s also a brief ode to EPMD’s “You Gots to Chill.”
The hip-hop tracks are dope, when you can find them. The Piece Talks is littered with interludes, the most notable being a crude one liner from deceased comedian Redd Foxx. “You don’t have to be a member of the KKK to be a wizard under the sheets.” It’s motivational speaking at its best. While the majority of the album is all banter and bravado, these two emcees don’t take themselves too seriously. The Piece Talks is essentially 19 tracks of high jinx.
Detroit native Ta’Raach, who has worked with the acclaimed Jay Dee and Slum Village, does a balancing act as producer and emcee and as a result may have spread himself too thin. It feels like Blu and Ta’Raach were less concerned with their mic skills and more concerned with making a sonically peculiar album. The Piece Talks was recorded in seven days and it sounds like it. The album is intentionally raw, unpolished and….crass. Even if no one else is into it, these two are definitely feelin’ themselves.
Kimberly Turner is a 23-year-old graduate of San Francisco State University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling, going to concerts and digging through the used CD bins at Rasputin Music. If she wasn't a journalist she'd be a pastry chef.