If you can’t already tell from the album cover, Recognize Ali is back and he is bringing that dark, boom bap hip hop with him on ‘Back To Mecca II‘. Rec fans will know that he dropped an underground opus ‘Back 2 Mecca‘ with producer Giallo Point about 5 or so years ago, and that album was a 90’s themed boom bap banger, so a sequel just HAD to bring that same energy, vibe and golden era feel. To his credit, Rec does this incredibly well, picking producers and beats that really transport hip hop heads back to the pre-shiny suit street corners.
Anu El handles the bulk of the production and his sound really suits the project, and we also gets beats from Hobgoblin, Sibbs Roc and a throwback track with Giallo Point on the beats and cuts! Tone Spliff also does his thing with the wheels on a handful of tracks and DJ Tray gets his slice and dice on too. All together, the beats, cuts and bars come together seamlessly to deliver a grittty, urban, street cinema soundtrack that isn’t just 90’s inspired, but is inspiringly 90’s, showing that you can still revisit the good old days, but make it relevant and meaningful in the modern.
The album kicks off with ‘Up In The Sky‘ which is really just an introduction to the ‘sound’ that listeners will experience on this audio journey, before things really kick off with ‘Mad Izm‘ and Recognize Ali attacks the microphone over a raw sounding drum laden track. ‘Belly Of The Beast‘ is a gritty street anthem and Rec brings that rugged energy when spitting his bravado-filled bars, and his flow is very 90s rhyme scheme. On ‘Extra-Terrestrial‘ we get a bit more of that soul / funk infusion to make the boom bap beat sing and Ali is really focused and engaged as he drops his bars in something of a more rugged Ghostface Killah / Motherless Child kind of vibe.
I love that hollow drum sound and ‘Mad Years In The Game‘ uses it subtly under some crisp snare and a soul influence. Rec is in the zone on this one, spitting his bars with precision and providing some insight into his thoughts along the journey, before the vibe gets a little more energetic as ‘Rec Is The Illest‘ is some of that high-frequency, in-your-face vibe that 90’s artists like Ol Dirty Bastard made popular, but it also has that understated Onyx vibe as well, so you know its hardcore! The horns on ‘Zig Zag Zig‘ are delightful, providing the juxtaposition of polish over a drum track that is anything but! It’s rough and rugged and Rec has the flow to match, and this is a filthy yet fun listen.
A short intermission with ‘Mic-Tyson‘ uses the iconic Sean Price to remind us what hardcore rap looks like before the album continues with ‘Moonwalking‘ produced by Sibbs Roc which has a slightly different vibe with it’s horns, vocal samples and cuts. Rec is at high energy on this one as he continues to spit bars that are chock full of a confidence that borders on cocky – but is thoroughly entertaining. ‘Dinosaur Bone Collector‘ commences with menacing keys that set the dark undertone for this track, putting you in the backseat of a taxi and praying Denzel is coming to find yo ass. Giallo Point crushes the production and cuts as Ali brings the lyrical jewels to make this one of the highlight moments of the album.
‘What You Need‘ starts with an etheral soundscape before building into a bigger anthem once the drums hit and Tone Spliff surgically dissects the Busta Rhymes track. Rec is in the pocket again here, flowing effortlessly over the Anu El production creating a really well rounded joint that slaps. The Hobgoblin produced ‘Duck Down‘ is noisy, but in a great way, The track is busy with many layers creating a really big, full bodied sound which is needed as Recognize Ali doesn’t take his foot off your neck with his robust rhymes. ‘Corona Killer‘ is a dark, forboding tune with snares slapping your speakers and Ali punching his street prose with purpose, and DJ Tray is ON POINT with the cuts, before the final track ‘Rec Wuz Here‘ resonates through the headphones with a lighter side of that boom bap, and a more narrative delivery from Rec as opposed to the mic commanding, in your face bars that have preceded this joint.
Bangers: Dinosaur Bone Collector, Extra-Terrestrial, What You Need, Belly of the Beast, Corona Killer.
Score: 9 / 10. This is a great album, and it certainly deserves your listening attention. Yes, it sounds ‘dated’ in that it is distinctly delivering a ‘moment in time’ feel through the beats, bars and subject matter. This transports the listener back to the street corners, hiding in the shadows and snatching bootlegs to get your hip hop fix however you could! Recognize Ali is one of those artists who would have revelled in the 90’s just as he has over the last 10 years or so, his rough, rugged and high-octane vibe commands your attention and he has plenty to say once he’s hooked you.