by Luke Baumgarten and Andrew Matson & r & & r & Mr. Lif & lt;a href= & quot;http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=rQy1MLe70wI & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp;RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fphobos.apple.com%252FWebObjects%252FMZStore.woa%252Fwa%252FviewAlbum%253Fi%253D152587581%2526id%253D152587528%2526s%253D143441%2526partnerId%253D30 & quot; & Mo' Mega & lt;/a & 4 STARS & r & If you haven't been paying attention, this is the new Def Jux. Yes, the (by now) classic hallmarks are still present (El-P's futuristic/apocalyptic beats, undeniable microphone-wrecking, a disdain for all that is safe and boring in hip-hop), but the new Jukies are all about heart these days. Gone are the days when clearly displaying your intellect over bugged beats equals a statement made, and gone are the days when "making a statement" is statement enough. Second to Cage, Mr. Lif is the most prominent Def Jux emcee to rise above mere consciousness-raising and break into genuine soul-baring.
He's refreshingly self-aware and clearly concerned that his messages not sound toothless. He's seen white kids embrace his "power to the people" politics too easily to hold any meaning, and it seems clear to me that with Mo' Mega, Mr. Lif is directly responding to idealistically involved yet practically apathetic surface-dwellers. How does he respond? With clear-headed vitriol. Gifted emcees this allergic to caricature are rare and to be valued. -- Andrew Matson & r & Check out: "Brothaz"
Greg Graffin Cold As the Clay 1 1/2 STARS & r & Greg Graffin's a punk god (having fronted Bad Religion for more than 20 years) and has among the genre's most iconic voices, but homeboy just can't do folk. Having an expressionless voice is great when you're dropping a polysyllabic anarchist rant over a bass line, power chords and drums. When you're singing folk devotionals over an acoustic guitar, though, having an expressive voice counts for something. He can't hack it here even when he's singing about stuff that moves him. At best, he sounds leaden and bored.
One star for helping politico-punks find the genre's folk roots, and another half for chutzpah, but it's not good enough to introduce people to an art form -- you have to create something that's good enough to make people want to dig deeper. Graffin fails there.
You get everything you need to know about this release from the cover, which pictures Graffin behind a mic stand, looking severely strained -- which makes sense, upon listening, because this entire album is constipated as hell. -- Luke Baumgarten & r & Check out: Seriously, don't bother