This has been a much anticipated album within the Raw Side Hip Hop ranks and now that it has finally been unleashed to the world, we couldn’t be happier. Stu Bangas has had arguably one of the best years of ANY producer in 2020, collaborating with a host of top tier emcees to deliver some of the best hip hop releases of the year (a number of which should feature in the Raw Side Hip Hop awards and in a LOT of Album of the Year lists at the end of 2020).
Mr. Lif is a treasure, a talented emcee who commands your attention when he spits, and is still so criminally underrated that it makes my head spin. This release should give even more exposure to the lyrical craftsman’s talents. This pairing, and this Vangarde album, are essentially flawless – playing to each others strengths with an authenticity and cohesion not seen on all collaborative-style projects.
In a ‘not new to 2020’ theme, Vangarde largely tackles the state of the world with socially conscious rhymes, activism-themed bars all over some of the best and smoothest ‘boom bap’ beats of the year. What could easily be ‘just another’ project in this space, Vangarde brings a refreshing take and point of view on the worlds ails.
Alongside the narrative which is cleverly crafted by Mr. Lif, we have this infusion of emcees that really enhance the tracks and overall offering. Blacastan rips the mic on ‘Shelter in Place‘ while Tone Spliff cuts this joint to pieces with surgical precision. ‘8 minutes 46 seconds‘ features Puma Ptah, Reef The Lost Cauze, Bluprint & Murs – each of them bringing a unique voice to the heinous George Floyd situation that sparked outrage across the globe.
‘Wave the Flag‘ is another killer track, this time focusing on painting vivid, verbal masterpieces of the modern dystopia, while ‘The New Normal‘ is also a very relevant and iconic track which is delivered perfectly by Mr. Lif and Stu Bangas is a way that would make Gang Starr proud.
Bangers: Basquiat, The New Normal, No Hitter, Shelter in Place.
Score: 9 / 10. There are really only two knocks on what otherwise is a gem in the 2020 release schedule. The length of the album at just 31 minutes, isn’t enough to really appreciate the different but dynamic duo that Stu & Mr. Lif are. The modern landscape is a much-covered topic in 2020 and rightfully so, but at times I would love to escape that narrative and just hear raw BARS over this sleek production. It’s a brilliant release and a great way to wind 2020 down.