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Visionaries - We Are the Ones (We've Been Waiting For...)

By Marisa Torres

Jan 30, 2007 - 1:48 PM

Underground rappers from Los Angeles and the other ‘burbs in Southern Cali have proved again and again the skills they possess on the mic, however they often trap themselves with limiting lyrics that praise the virtues of their life and their ‘hood. Production has also been seen as suspect due to the lack of head-nodding energy that other acts, like those from the Bay or the ATL bring. L.A.’s Visionaries crew tries to take their fourth and latest installment, We are the Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For…), to a new direction by utilizing the beat makers and rappers of the City of Angels and aren’t afraid to be honest and personal in their lyrics. This six-member collective was first formed back in the mid-90s with rappers Key Kool, Dannu, Lord Zen, LMNO, 2Mex and Beat Junkie member DJ Rhettmatic. With their first album Galleries (1998), the Visionaries proved themselves as a crew to be reckoned with within the underground community. The hard hitting beat production of Key Kool, Rhettmatic, Dilated Peoples’ Evidence and one of Beat Junkies founding fathers, J-Rocc, mixed with the cut throat lyrics of the five emcees, made the album a must-have for any hip hop head’s record collection.

On We are the Ones, it seems as if those hungry days of Galleries and Sophomore Jinx are things of the past. The opening track “All We Need” is just their pat on the back for still making music independently and is only tolerable because of the beat by Self Scientific and Aftermath in-house producer DJ Khalil. The highlight of the album, besides the many shout outs to San Diego by Dannu, is “All Right” – a soulful and jazzy bass line of a gem beat by the late great J. Dilla that has every Visionary offering a small glimpse into his home life and the financial and family obligations they are faced with. The Madlib produced track “Need to Learn,” finds the Visionaries finally stepping up their lyrical content due to the heavy-hitting lineup of guests such as Rakaa Iriscience, Brother J, RBX, Sadat X, and YZ.

As usual DJ Rhettmatic’s scratching and vocal sampling polishes the cuts with that Premier-esque fashion that makes the album more likable than their previous release, Pangea. And although each member of this crew has proved himself to be a skilled and talented emcee on their previous three albums, it is 2Mex and Lord Zen who find their own, while the others fall back into the hook struggling with inconsistent delivery and unable to find their own voice.

Still spreading the positivity to their audiences and keeping it hype in that L.A., block party, chanting-the-chorus type way is all good. But hip-hop is best when it hits the mind, heart and soul. The Visionaries have been able to get by on their energetic live performances and catchy hooks but lately when it comes to the studio, they are still lacking that cohesiveness of strong lyrics and beats. However, they are getting closer to finding that sound again that once made them one of the illest crews to step out of the L.A. smog.

***

Marisa Torres is a staff writer for OH DANG!

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