- Mon, 2011-01-31 15:06
One of the best-loved and most recognisable hip hop outfits of the late nineties and early noughties was Jurassic 5, and baritone-voiced Chali 2Na was probably the best-loved and most recognisable emcee among their number. When the crew called it a day in 2006, 2Na struck out on his own, releasing his debut solo effort Fish Market in 2009 to a warm reception paired with the general consensus that the heady heights of J5 had not been matched.
There’s no word yet of a follow-up album, but in the meantime we can content ourselves with the new mixtape Fish Market Part 2, a follow up to the original Fish Market mixtape released in 2004. As with its predecessor, Fish Market Part 2 is comprised of a mixture of new and old material, including rare b-sides, collaborations and guest appearances dug out from the vaults. DJ Dez Andres of Detroit legends Slum Village joins 2Na on mixing duties.
As is inevitable with a release of this nature, Fish Market Part 2 doesn’t have the kind of cohesive character and flow that one might expect from a studio album, but that having been said, nor does it suffer from the cobbled-together vibe to which some mixtapes fall prey. Twenty-two tracks in total, a handful are relatively uninteresting skits, and a few more besides are little more than curiosities; Tanya Stephens’ No Bad Mon, for example, features only a brief blast of 2Na, and the Rusko-produced Gadget Go Go is impressive lyrically but aurally incongruous.
The majority of the record, however, is well worth the occasional misplaced moment. There are plenty of beautifully produced tracks, and an abundance of killer verses from 2Na, as well as a range of his emcee mates. Production highlights include FM2 Theme, which gets proceedings underway with a blend of bouncing piano and cut and scratched vocal samples, Step Yo Game Up’s high-energy combination of stabbing strings and a minimal beat, Across The Map’s tumbling, oriental-sounding melody, Hood Report’s pitch-shifting synth sounds and the soulful groove of Wheels On The World.
2Na’s baritone flow is typically charismatic, effortless and varied; as he says himself on Hood Report “pick a day and we gon’ come with a fresh changed approach, syncopated rhythms and a sick range of flows.” The subjects he covers are as broad as ever, with a tendency towards more conscientious topics, which he manages to explore without straying into the territory of preaching.
Fish Market Part 2 cannot compete with Jurassic 5 at their best, and nor will it fully satisfy those eagerly awaiting a new studio album from Chali 2Na, but it isn’t trying to do either of those things. As a collection of previously unheard material intended to tide fans over until something more substantial surfaces it performs admirably. The standard of the music is – with one or two exceptions – consistently high, and we are reminded throughout why 2Na is so well-respected and widely loved.