MF Doom has mastered the art of the concept album and has become one of the most creative and hard-working artists in hip-hop today. Releasing album after album under different names, MF Doom has joined forces with MF Grimm and more to create Monsta Island Czars aka M.I.C. Originally Zev Love-X of the group KMD, MF Doom has grown to become one of hip-hop’s monst enigmatic emcees. His very good friend and fellow emcee, MF Grimm, was locked up during recording and was unable to participate in the project (even though he was the man who had the idea that all of them should team up.) Monsta Island Czars is a collection of hungry underground emcees who have traded their usual names for monsters from old science fiction movies. MF Doom is King Ghidra. MF Grimm is Jet Jaguar. KD (aka Kwite Def) is Kamackeris. X-ray is King Caesar. The others (Megalon, Kong, Rodan, Spiga, and Gigan) all keep their original names because they started out as members. With production handled by X-Ray (King Caesar) and MF Doom (King Ghidra), the concept album “Escape From Monsta Island” is 20 tracks of hardcore, underground, hungry, creative hip-hop. Sometimes, the deliveries are lightning-fast while others just have that straight hunger. Both on-beat and off-beat, these emcees attack your brain just like prehistoric monsters feeding on major cities.WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
While none of the songs are extremely catchy, some are instantly gratifying. The opening track “M.I.N.Y.A.” (produced by X-Ray) is an anthem that has an extremely cool and thick keyboard melody that drives along. (Note: Minya was the name of Godzilla's son.) Sounding very much like Kool G. Rap, Kamackeris steals the show with his opening verse: “…It’s going down this minute / We in it to win it / It’s all minted / Ride or die, chrome just glass tinted / It’s like kill or be killed / Ill or get illed on / I’m passing over suckers leaving first born, still born / I drop deeper than an anchor / Holding down a ship with my b*tch and my banker…” His energy is incredible and both his lyrics and performance is memorable. “M.I.N.Y.A.” is one of the best tracks on this album. Kamackeris and Kong both rock excellent performances on the X-Ray produced “Witchcraft”. This posse cut does not have a hook. It is just straight verses, straight spitting. MF Doom produces a wild beat on “1,2, 1,2” while Megalon rocks the mic with a dope 2nd verse along side Kong and Rodan. “Gunz N Swordz” (produced by X-Ray) has Gigan and Megalon spitting over a wild beat that has a cool orchestra-loop. It’s beautiful how the guitar comes in for a little while after the loop and the track goes back. The MF Doom (King Ghidra) produced “Make It Squash! (Got A Roc)” has a chaotic but very cool beat where the loops are hypnotic and the electric drums pound. Kong, Megalon, King Cesar, and Rodan all rock the mic with an intense hunger. “Under Pressure” (produced by X-Ray) is a very emotional track with very serious sounding loop and driving drums. The un-credited female vocals on the hook are both sad and sinister, poignant and severe, beautiful and tragic. “…Feeling that pressure…” Structure wise, it is very tight even though the verses by Spiega, Megalon, Rodan and Kong have a very hungry and wild delivery. “Out Of Mind” (produced by X-Ray) starts out with some incredible beat-boxing and vocal samples. King Ceasar and Kamackeris both rock the microphone with mind-blowing verses and intense deliveries. The hook is both used from a sung vocal sample and sung by the emcees: “…I – always – stay –out –of – my – mind…” The piano along with the scratching adds to the intensity of the beat. Kamackeris truly does an excellent job: “…Committing more terrorist activity / Y’all n*ggas can’t get with me / Spit rhymes, for y’all, sincerely / While n*ggas steadily beef / Still wanna talk on how you running New York? Please!.…” One of the best tracks on the LP, “Out Of Mind” is funny as it is sinister. The final track “Escape From Monsta Isle” is an interesting posse cut with some very typical MF Doom (Ghidra) production.
Each monster has a solo track too! MF Doom (or King Ghidra) is not on the LP as much as fans may like but he does have a dope solo joint called “MIC Line” that he produced too. The wild thump of the bass and the weird melodies along with the rugged drums make this classic MF Doom. Ghidra even sings a little. Lyrically and delivery wise, the song is true hardcore underground hip-hop. His flows are mind-blowing. “Take Control” (produced by X-Ray) is the Kamackeris solo track. Short and sweet, this track is very impressive. The driving beats along with the atmospheric melody and the flows of Kamackeris make this a classic track with an intense hardcore quality. The hook sounds simple at first but the energy is severe:“…You want money? F*ck the money! Y’all want power? F*ck the power! You want respect? F*ck respect! You want gold? We take control!…” Kamackeris has some powerful lyrics too: “…Life is even hard / Even if you got a job…” I cannot wait to hear more from the emcee. “Became A Monsta” (produced by X-Ray) is Spiega’s solo track. While it does not hit as hard as the previous 2 solo tracks mentioned, the rugged drive of the drums and the sinister piano loop along with his deep, eerie voice makes this a very interesting track. Kong’s solo track, “Warning” (produced by X-Ray), is an extremely energetic track with a thick, oppressive bass line and ambient piano. In his verses, Kong rhymes his ass off with the usual hunger and energy that makes this project wonderful. The odd hook has him singing and mentioning “dot com” for some reason. The verses and the beat make this track worthy. The X-Ray produced “Somethin To Prove” by Rodan is a deep and funky track that uses James Brown samples. The bass line and the drums pound as the funky guitar loop adds a familiar sound. Rodan has some very entertaining lyrics under that hungry flow: “...Bad luck to MCs like a Kennedy / Reach across infinity / Reestablish my divinity / Between me and the eternally great enmity / Imagine a natural born enemy befriending me? / Offending me with what you pretend to be / How the fuck you a killa with blatant homosexual tendencies?...” Even though MF Doom and Kamackeris have the best solo tracks, they are allvery well done.
While “Escape From Monsta Island” is truly a very cool and very grimy album, the LP does have some minor problems. There is one song that drags the LP down a little bit. “Comin At You” was produced by King Ghidra and has Angela Workman singing the hook. The beat is the same beat Freddie Foxxx used for the title track “Konexion”. Workman sings: “Monsta Island!” over a very synth-plastic sounding beat. The song just does not fit with the angry and dirty feel of the album. It is completely out of place. Jet Jaguar (aka MF Grimm) is greatly missed. He is the creator of the project and he is absent. It’s a shame. MF Doom (aka Ghidra) is also spread thin. There should have been much more production and more emcee-ing from Ghidra. Doom did just release a solo King Ghidra album so, we’ll have to accept that. Other little problems include the repetition of the styles of the emcees and the production. While it takes a while to tell them apart, most of the songs and emcees sound the same at first. Besides abundant posse cuts, the myriad of skits and some other minor problems, the LP does work very well.
“Escape From Monsta Island!” is a true underground, hardcore hip-hop album. It forces the listener to truly try and keep up with the lightning lyrics and the many emcees who are not too well known. While King Ghidra (Doom), Kamackeris, Kong, and King Ceasar, and Rodan all rock the mic, many of the emcees begin to sound the same. Due to the abundant amount of posse cuts and some songs without hooks, many the songs begin to sound similar too. Still, after a couple of deep listens, each emcee begins to shine and a majority of the songs truly stand out. It is a tragedy that MF Grimm (aka Jet Jaguar) was not available for this album. Also, Doom is not on the album enough! Even though all the emcees are extremely hungry and possess unique and strong flows and lyrics, Doom (Ghidra) and Kamackeris steal the show. While Kamackeris does sound like Kool G Rap, his style, lyrics, and delivery are so unique compared to the other emcees. He truly stands out. MF Doom (aka King Ghidra) stands out too for 2 reasons. First, he is the most well known out of all the emcees. This gives a feeling of familiarity to the LP. Second, his voice, flow, and lyrics are incredibly unique. There are 9 emcees in Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) and the album does sound crowded. But, if gigantic pre-historic mutant monsters were attacking your city, things would feel very crowded, wouldn’t it? This LP truly is an attack. It attacks the senses, the ears, the hip-hop industry, and much more. X-Ray and Ghidra’s production varies from mind-blowing to decent. While a majority of it is impeccably original, some of it feels repetitious during the first couple of listens. 20 tracks deep, “Escape From Monsta Island!” is an LP that you can listen to over and over again and find something new in it every time. It overflows with beats, lyrics, ideas, and energy. The concept is extremely original and none of the producers or emcees stray away from the project’s intention. If you like your hip-hop underground and dirty with hunger and extreme force, this album is for you. The bass lines assault your senses as they pound into your ears. The drum tracks pound hard. The beauty of the production is that it is loose and tight at the same time. While some of it sounds sloppy and chaotic, it still moves you. “Escape From Monsta Island!” is a group concept album that is not only original, but very thick. Their attack on hip-hop is much needed. The Monsta Island Czars are attacking and this is one album underground hardcore hip-hop fans would love to be pulverized with.
8.5 out of 10
Written by Todd E. Jones aka The New Jeru Poet
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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