erasing clouds

C-Rayz Walz, Ravipops (The Substance)

reviewed by dave heaton

C-Rayz Walz comes off like a hell of a battle rapper and freestyler. His Definitive Jux debut Ravipops (The Substance) is full of clever quips and wicked barbs delivered in a compact style and a commanding voice over sharp, funky beats. From the brutal rip into lesser MCs and wanna-be players "Guns and Butter" to "The Line Up," where he stands head-to-toe with a gang of underground talents (including Wordsworth, Vast Aire and MF Doom), he's on top of every beat, always ready to spit something that you won't entirely catch for a moment or two.

Yet the parenthetical title for the album, "The Substance," isn't a hollow promise, either, as C-Rayz has serious thoughts circling around his brain. While "Protect My Family" shows both a level of social awareness and of introspection that you might not expect, it isn't until the album's last seven or so songs when he starts taking his rhymes through serious historical, sociological and metaphysical territories. On songs like "We Live," "Seal Killa," "Dead Buffalos," and the rock-flavored eulogy "3 Card Molly," he looks at the forces behind the last century or so-colonization, corporatization, environmental destruction, racial division-through dark, apocalyptic tales of survival.

"Dead Buffalos" is an especially astute track, making sharp-edged comparisons between Westward expansion and the way blacks have been treated in the US, in the past and now. "Camoflague" takes those struggles to the insides of human beings-he rhymes about the way people mask their feelings to fit in, and gives a motivational lecture based not on touchy-feely mushiness or political ideology but on real-life survival. "When you die? People remember you for who you were…no, for who you really were. This is the Substance," C-Rayz writes beneath his thank-yous in the liner notes. The message C-Rayz gives by the end of The Substance is that life's a mess but it's up to us to live it right. His songs project a bleak vision of life but there's a ray of hope shining through the cracks.


Issue 15, September 2003

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