At this point in his career, Born Allah definitely doesn't have anything to prove. He has released more than a handful of excellent records over his career: the politically charged Movement Ex album in the early 90s, three battle-oriented singles on Ill Boogie Records in the early 2000s, and more recently - some of his best work thus far - two albums and two mixtapes with the Tabernacle MCz. But you definitely wouldn't know that from hearing his latest offering, his debut solo album, No Hip Hop for Grown Men. Born sounds hungry on this album, and delivers possibly his strongest effort. His deceptively effortless bars are honed and sharpened, and the beats are soulful, yet raw and abrasive.
Something that sets Born apart from the rest is his decision to build on the foundation of rap, by paying homage to the old school without re-doing what has already been done. The album sounds fresh and new, while still containing elements from the past: classic old school drum breaks, cuts and scratches, back-and-forth rhymes. Some of my favourite Daddy Grace tracks have been produced by heavyweight Longevity of Darkleaf and Born wisely laces the album with several of his productions. "All In," which was leaked last year and features Jaisan on the hook, oozes funk and shows two veterans at the top of their game. "Warrior's Theme," also produced by Longevity, sees Born spitting with his rhyme partner Erule, always a good recipe. On "B-Boy Anthem" born trades bars with Agallah the Don, a very refreshing move in an era where rappers so rarely record in the same room. The trio of Born, Akim and Soul King, who recorded the excellent "Cold as Ice" last year, return to drop an even tighter track on "Bar Work." K.I.T.s Crackin', Lucky Iam, J-Ro of Tha Alkaholiks, Chali 2na, Dirty Birdy and Planet Asia all contribute vocals, and Bigg Scott, Longevity, BLDNGBLK and Dame Young provide production, and everyone brings their A-game to unify this project with a cohesive sound and flow.
According to Born, this album was a product of his frustration with rap music in modern times. As he explained to me, "My concept [for this album] is that hip-hop has never been old enough to have this market that exists now, which is grown men, real B-Boys, fans of real hip-hop, that don't have anything to embrace in today's market with the young people. This is contemporary hip-hop for cats who are into real bars. Our motto is, 'We're young enough to know what's poppin', but old enough to know when you're spittin' some bullshit!'" This album serves as an alternative for older rap fans who feel that their beloved genre has been bastardized. His choice to return to the roots of hip-hop and build on the foundation is a reminder that much of what is currently labelled hip-hop is very different from the genre we all fell in love with. It has become a mutated version of the original format, and Born, while proclaiming himself the original man, also returns to the original rap format on this excellent album. This album may be intended for older audiences but I would encourage rap fans of all ages to support this album and remember what rap once was and what it still can be.
The album is currently streaming on Born's Soundcloud page, and is for sale on iTunes. Hit him up on Facebook for hard copies.
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