Monday, February 01, 2010
Labtekwon - Di Na Ko Degg: Soul Power (Ankh Ba Records)
Labtekwon is such a singular force in Baltimore hip hop, the scene's longest running and most prolific recording artist with absolutely no serious competition -- this is I believe his 24th release since 1993 -- in addition to being completely on his own trip artistically, that it's always hard for me to place him in the context of the other stuff I cover around here. I'm a fan, I check out every new release, but his back catalog's so dauntingly huge that I'm a long way from catching up on all of it, and since this site is about new music, he kind of ends up being just one of many rappers who puts out one or two CDs a year that I write about here, which may unintentionally diminish his history and his stature. I don't get the impression he likes me, given the way he's grilled me the couple times I've spoken to him, and called me a cornball the one time he commented on Gov't Names, which I kind of understand given his relationship to the more recent generation of Baltimore rappers that I'm known for giving coverage to. And that's alright, he may have a point, and I don't need the musicians I listen to to like me, and I'm sure a lot more wouldn't if they knew me.
I'm late to checking out this album -- didn't know where to get it until I realized recently that it's available on eMusic.com -- so I'm not totally clear on its history. But from what I understand, a 23-track Di Na Ko Degg was released in late 2008, and then in 2009 an expanded 27-track version titled Di Na Ko Degg: Soul Power was issued, similar to the way 2006's The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 was kind of a revision of 2005's The Ghetto Dai Lai Llama: African Rhythm American Blues. In this case, though, I haven't heard both versions of Di Na Ko Degg, so I can't speak on the differences, but at 94 minutes the Soul Power version is his longest, most epic album to date, and you really get a full helping of all the variety within the Labtekwon sound, with Professor Max Mineblo, who's produced a lot of his albums, handling most of the tracks.
Labtekwon - "Reach Out For Me" (mp3)
I like these kinds of Labtekwon songs, where he's basically bragging and talking shit, but he's doing it on his terms and using his own terminology, reflecting values that 99% of all other shit talking rappers don't share (my favorite line is "hustler of karma, a freaky monster eating vegan lasagna"). Like any other rapper, he thinks he's the best, and he's closer to being right than most of them, especially since he's essentially in a category of his own.