When you have grown up on underground hip hop, quality lyricism and lived through the ‘height’ of West Coast rap, then you hear the names Ras Kass and Kurupt and instantly the ears prick up. Of course, during the 90’s these guys were in HEAVY rotation for their dope rhymes and ability to make funky, unique hip hop with killer bars. Killah Priest and Canibus equally need no introduction either as they are two supreme forces when it comes to lyrical hip hop. The HRSMN project is somewhat the original of the ‘Detox‘ or ‘New Slaughterhouse Album‘ ilk. That much anticipated, highly sought after record that you never know whether it will ever see the light of day, or if you’re chasing a hip hop unicorn.
Luckily for us, under the steady hand and influence of Ras Kass, along with the support and assistance from all emcees involved, we can finally appreciate The Four Horseman project. The Last Ride honours the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Kurupt (Famine), Ras Kass (Pestilence), Canibus (War), and Killah Priest (Death). These four masters of the lyrical craft come together like Voltron to form the most feared, revered and formidable ground of emcees ever assembled. They are the first hip hop ‘supergroup’.
And what an offering it is. This comes with the highest of bars set – four supreme mic crushers who not only have their own unique style and flow, but also possess some of the sharpest pens in hip hop history. It also has an ‘aura’ around it, that THIS time, we actually do get the holy grail of hip hop – so living up to the hype was always going to be tough. Ras Kass did extremely well, when he spoke on Killah Priest’s show and advised the recording process. He noted that a lot of this material was recorded around 20 years ago and that it had just sat around until the time was right. It was also told that while some of it was going to be redone, revamped and just built upon, that this was going to be a unique record. And it is.
Sentimentality in music is always there. We hear something that we heard as a youngun and we feel some kind of way about it. We judge new releases from more matured emcees, on their original, youthful releases and so on. So, not only did The Last Ride have to serve as an incredible album, it had to hold a special place in hip hop as the ‘debut / finale’. The first and the last album that identifies a time and moment in the world of hip hop. We have seen some modern releases really hone in on that ‘original sound’ and still stay fresh – check the latest Lloyd Banks album for instance – and then there are other times where the crossover into the more modern landscape hasn’t worked as seamlessly, but for better or worse we love it because of the emotional value it has (think DMX’s ‘Exodus’ joint).
The Last Ride is the album we always wanted. And while most of us bootlegged the heck out of the faux ‘original’ project decades ago, only now are we actually getting the real deal. What the HRSMN were always planning to do. Slaughter mics with incredible lyricism, work seamlessly together to lay down bar after bar, track after track and raise the quality of hip hop music. With the ‘rule’ whereby NO EMCEE was allowed a do-over after laying a verse in play, each artist had to deliver for fear of being shown up on their own album! That’s that killer mentality that only a few have. That ‘steel sharpens steel’ awareness the greats have whether it’s on the mic, behind the boards, on the basketball court etc.
But enough about the journey – we are shotgun on The Last Ride and it’s time to talk about the music.
It’s almost an hour long with 13 tracks in total. This is one of those real ALBUM albums. None of this glorified EP type stuff, there is a lot of music on this project and there has to be with four of the greatest emcees shining AND a handful of wicked guest features like Chino XL, Planet Asia, Hus KingPin and Ras Kass’ Jamo Gang running mate El Gant. The beats reflect the past two decades and deliver a full sounding, drum heavy, ‘meat on the bone’ production style that is essential with the ferociousness that the HRSMN attack the mic and track. Are the beats overly ‘memorable’? Probably not – they’re good and better than a lot of current material, but they are strictly the canvas for the lyrical paintings to be produced.
The Last Ride features a number of ‘oh sh!t’ moments lyrically, and every emcee turns the spotlight firmly on themselves through their lyrical fury at least once. This truly is a collaborative project with no weak links, no one member outshining the other and when one wins, we all win. With only one or two missteps with beat choice or a semi-forced and slightly out of place attempt at a ‘love song’ -this is one of the best albums of the year and dare I say worth the wait. It’s well produced and promoted, but more importantly it’s been done correctly and we finally get to hear what these four emcees are capable of with proper mixing and mastering.
Bangers: This Shit Right Here, Impossible, Centaurs, Apocalips Now, The Last Ride, Morticians
Score: 9 / 10. An incredible album really, considering the history of the product, the timelines incurred through the journey etc. It just shows that skills are skills no matter what the era. Outside of the love song ‘Love N War’ and the underwhelming beat on ‘Champion’, this is pretty much everything I have ever wanted. Even if it took 20 years to make it happen, it’s worth every minute.