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Buy Balance

Akrobatik
Balance
label: Coup D'etat
released: 05.20.03
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0

 
Dopeness Indeed
by: matt cibula

Damn, is this some hot shit straight outta Dorchester. Akrobatik is the kind of MC created in a lab for smart rap-lovers who also love to get down and boogie. The title track lays it down straight; Akro explains that hip-hop needs BOTH intelligent "conscious"-minded lyricists AND fun club/chart bouncers, and then he demonstrates this for the rest of the hour. He has flow, he has brains, he's got fat beats, and he's got his ear to the street. He's my new favorite, and you'll like him too.

Why? Well, check "Hypocrite." To a stuttering electrobeat that somehow manages to NOT copy either Timbaland or the Neptunes, Akro goes off: "My name is Akrobatik and I don't smoke crack / I won't write a rhyme if I think the beat's wack / I don't shoot smack or pop pills to get loose / And I don't drink liquor, it cause spousal abuse." He goes on to castigate those who smoke cigarettes, those who carry guns, those who talk mess, etc. etc. etc., and then goes on to let everyone off the hook: "I don't do none of that shit but if I do / It's because I'm a hypocrite JUST LIKE YOU." Dopeness indeed.

Then we've got the superb duet with legendary rapper Diamond D called "Feedback." This swings it hard, from the clever bassline sample of Gary Wright's "My Love Is Alive" (I think) to the ripped-from-the-headlines lyrical references: "Me and Diamond D is hanging kids over rails like Michael Jackson" is amazing, but "Any MC that tries to beat me / Is getting thrown against the rails like Jason Priestley" is even more amazing. Diamond's flow is smooth and gangsta, playing off Akro's more nasal aggro style, and this might be my favorite track of the year.

But let's not stop here. There's a ton of styles here, and Akrobatik is comfortable with all of them. "Limelight" is all Native Tongues-ish and jazzy and conscious, so Akro sounds like Posdnuos in this tale of a smart girl whose lusting after bad boys leads to tragedy. "Remind My Soul" is very Blackalicious-esque in its concerns about black identity and longing for "the time we were great / Before the self-hate / Wait, we still great, but…." And the record closes with the beautiful ghetto-family ode "Here and Now," where he works it on the truthful tip: "I was rhymin' 'bout my skills and my sexual clout / When I barely even knew what I was talkin' about." (Okay, this one sounds a lot like Blackalicious too. But that's just about my favorite crew around today, so there we have it.)

But it's not all about the nicey-nicey, either – remember, this is all about Balance, right? "Wreck Dem" talks about how he can "Ax up the competition like Lizzie Borden" and features the classic chorus sample "Watch a fly nigga show you how to rhyme, asshole". When Mr. Lif drops in to kick his shit, he sounds like he's having more fun than he did on his own last record: "Step off to the side to take a breather / Hit you with a blast of emphysema / Come back to see ya / At my leisure." The next track, "Bonecrusher," works the violent side of the street, but makes sure we know it's all a metaphor for rhythmic skill. And Akro follows this up with "Woman II," a sex rap that manages to be funny (he doesn't make his move fast enough and she gets bored) and sexy (he learns how to gauge desire vs. respect) and extreeeeeemely funky.

So yeah, I love this record. It's not perfect, but damn, give dude a break, it's his first album. And he did it up. It's hard not to love this guy and root for him, because he's got a good heart…but it's also hard not to shake your ass while listening to him. And what do you need more than that combination?
22-May-2003 9:20 AM

If you liked Balance...

Tracklist:
1. Prelude To Balance
2. Balance
3. Hypocrite
4. Hand That Rocks The Cradle
5. Remind My Soul
6. Front Steps
7. Feedback
8. Cooler Heads
9. Wreck Dem
10. Bone Crusher
11. Woman II
12. Always Bet On Ak
13. Limelight
14. Time
15. Here And Now