Classic Album Review: Mars Ill Backbreakanomics

The hip hop of today is multi-faceted, with many different artists and a 

variety of styles.

CD

Mars Ill is a group that captures hip hop in its purest form: honest lyrics, dope beats with guitar, horn and eerie samples together with two turntables. 

After establishing themselves independently, and amassing a dedicated fan base, Backbreakanomics is the national release for the duo, and another hip hop gem in the arsenal of Gotee Records. It’s sure to make waves not only in the underground and college scene, but in mainstream.

Dust provides the beats and Manchild, the lyrics, as they explain what they are about on the horn-filled, “Breathe Slow”. That definition is “Aristotle mixed with Krush Groove”.

The always entertaining and zany Pigeon John guests on “Plains and Trains”. John shows his versatility and fits in just fine over the slow, boom bip of Dust, and almost comes off sounding like a third member of Mars Ill. Read More Here

 Turntables, drums and some old 50's jazz guitars kick in along with the vocals before the beat picks up as the guitars get louder. "Afterlife" opens with a piano, drums, percussion and synths and continues on layering synths, keys and the beats. "Black Box Artists" changes things up musically by tossing in horns. There's a line in this song that says, "This is harder than it looks, this is better than it sounds." And they're right. "Inside Out," which opens with drums, piano, tambourine and what sounds like a flute possibly sampled from a classical song. The song then breaks into strings for truly amazing results. Not many hip-hop artists think of strings in songs overlayed with turntables often enough.

"Enterchange," is a real funky track with some nice jazz guitar licks, beats, horns and offers an overall classic blues sound. The liner notes for this song state that the listening public deserves to hear more. This is more. The song is so intricately layered. The next track is called "Let Me," which sounds like a blues/jazz free-style poetry song. I love the fact that they are so diverse in what they put on this record. "Alpha Male" seems very personal to Dust and Manchild. One of the things that's great in hip-hop, or even just music in general, is it provides an escape for the artist -- a great outlet, and I think a lot of people can sympathize with this song. Mars Ill paints the portrait of a dysfunctional home life run by what is basically described a dead beat father. What's great about this song is it doesn't stop with what's happened in life, but recognizing that God is the ultimate Father and that you don't have to let your past govern your future.

"Freeze Framework" is another song that sets a new standard for hip-hop being deeply layered with two different types of guitar riffs and drums. Have you ever listened to the Beatles? Have you ever listened to the Beatles's more psychedelic music and hip-hop at the same time? Neither have I. That's what makes "Stepson" such a standout track. It's new and original and "Sunstep" is no exception. It possesses a sort of carnival ambience. It's curiously a mix between Beck's Midnight Vultures album and Hershey Park with a flavor of Mars Ill. "The Calm Before" trips up the golden path this record was walking as it stumbles into the old simplistic style of rap with basic, uninteresting beats. However, lyrically, "The Calm Before" is possible the best on backbreakanomics, which makes up for the difference in music on this song as compared to the others.

When I first picked up this record, I thought it'd just be another lousy rap effort. I didn't care for Raw Material, Mars Ill's first full-length CD from 2001. backbreakanomics blows it off the planet. This is a prime example of what Christian hip-hop should be. It's not just simplistic, average drum beats with basoc rhymes topped off with a poor melody. They have thought of putting other music into rap that noone has thought of before. They don't build off of samples of other songs. If you're an aspiring Christian hip-hop artist then please do yourself a favor and listen to this. If Christian music of all sorts followed the example of Mars Ill with backbreakanomics, there'd be no reason for the Grammy's not to air the Christian music rewards.

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