Brooklyn emcee AZ is back with another solid hip hop offering ‘Truth Be Told‘, his 10th studio album and second in as many years after his triumphant ‘Doe or Die’ sequel. With Buckwild running point with the production, this release is full of promise and for the most part it delivers top tier hip hop, albeit with some missteps along the way.
AZ seems to always be mentioned as hip hop royalty, criminally underrated / under appreciated or completely overrated. Truth be told, he probably manifests throughout all three categories over the course of his career, but when you become a household name through an incredible guest spot on one of the most iconic hip hop albums of all time, it’s going to be a tumultuous journey! Ever since ‘Life’s a Bitch’ on Illmatic, the silky-smooth emcee has been delivering incredible hip hop that still polarises the ears of heads all over the world. However, in his own right, AZ has carved out quite the career from his own discography, to some incredible guest spots and feature verses. His debut ‘Doe or Die’ was well received, and the sequel just two years ago had a lot to live up to, but somehow managed to exceed those lofty expectations – and then dropped a deluxe version with FOUR additional heat rocks!
Why the back story? Well, AZ deserves his flowers, and as impressive as ‘Doe or Die II’ was, AZ’s latest offering might just fall short of the brilliant heights he achieved just one album ago. Not by much mind you, but ‘Truth Be Told‘ just doesn’t quite have the flawless composition as some joints tend to sound a touch pedestrian by the masterful emcees lofty standards – which ironically is where we started this review – identifying where on the spectrum of hip hop brilliance AZ sits. Or more accurately, where his latest album sits.
The album kicks off with the ‘Intro‘ which delivers celestial vocals as the backdrop for AZ setting the tone for the album before ‘Reintroduction‘ realistically commences the listening journey with an energetic, boom bap joint that has a positive vibe and the golden-tongued delivery we pressed play to hear. It’s AZ sitting in the pocket and just punching out dope bars with a triumphant vocal sample to accompany. ‘Don’t Go Astray‘ uses some slick guitar work in the hook, and while the track is good and the message is solid, it feels a little undersold, then ‘One Of The Greatest‘ should be a stronger track with a title like that, but it feels like something we’ve heard before. It’s dope enough, but it’s not a progression from where we’ve been. The good news? Those are the missteps….
‘Amazing‘ by name and by nature. This is what the fans want to hear, an inspired AZ, with some real energy and a track that keeps it authentic but also bounces a little more and let’s it breathe a little. You can imagine being in the studio when AZ heard this beat, and he just said “fuck it let’s go” – that’s the vibe and energy it brings. ‘Still Got It‘ is more of that street corner poetry, that dusty boom bap production and AZ really shines when the music and bars align like on this joint, which builds beautifully into ‘The GOAT‘ which is more of that sharp, crisp drum production that acts like a metronome for the bravado bars – and gives those Dead Wrong / Biggie vibes. The only knock – it’s only two minutes!
A more subdued vibe captivates the listener on ‘This Is Why‘, a deliberate, darker, edgier number which is the calm before the AZ & Pharoahe Monch inspired storm ‘Go Time‘. The beat is energetic and it fuels the fire within AZ and Monch who proceed to tear this track apart like hyenas on a deer carcass. This track is ferocious, fun and funky all in one spirited song. Fat Joe joins the fray on ‘How We Get It‘ and while I don’t know if Joe be lying in these bars, they’re still dope. He works well in tandem with AZ over a slow burning, key driven joint with soulful vocal hook. Ending on a high note, AZ closes out ‘Truth Be Told’ with the crisp ‘Respect Mines‘, an up-beat track that ensures the listener remembers this emcees hustle.
Bangers: Amazing, Go Time, Still Got It, The GOAT.
Score: 8.5 / 10. You have to judge the project on its merits and it is a really good album from start to finish. AZ is supremely talented and when he is inspired and the production matches his energy and delivery, we are witnesses to greatness. On ‘Truth Be Told’ there are just a couple of tracks where the alignment is just slightly askew, and this lets the overall product down. There are enough dope moments on this album to get your fix of that 1994 ‘Life’s a Bitch’ AZ, but it can’t quite capitalise on the elite emceeing the way Doe Or Die / Doe or Die II do.
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