New/Old School Album Reviews

‘At The Speed Of Light’ is better than ‘Hoffa’


Illustration by Juan Cortez / Times Staff

“This or That” is a column by Jordan Harris and Emmanuel Becerril where they give each other an album from their individual eras to review. How many paws would you give these albums?

This or That

Album: Hoffa
Artist(s): Dave East, Harry Fraud
Released Date: July 2021

Harlem rapper Dave East teams up with fellow New Yorker, Harry Fraud, on the 2021 album Hoffa. East was named one of XXL Magazine’s 2016 freshman class but is perhaps better known for his 2019 portrayal of Method Man in “Wu-tang: An American Saga.”

This album starts out with the familiar sounds of Fraud, who might be best known for producing the 2011 hit from French Montana, “Shot Caller.” Lots of horns over addictive bass beats give way to the sandpaper voice of East. His non-stop delivery works well over the first few tracks. The highlight for me was “Diamonds.” This track is like a street life smoothie with lines like, “I heard all them stories about how they lynched us, now they’re trying to hang.”

Unfortunately after that, each song doesn’t sound so different from the other. Some tracks reminded me of a bunch of Berner songs I’ve heard a hundred times and it’s hard to imagine East hasn’t heard them as well. One of the songs I did like was “The Product” because he sounded hungry with a straight hustler flow that hit all the right notes.

The album has a number of features but none of them felt worth mentioning. Benny the Butcher was alright but it would’ve been more impressive if it was a freestyle and not written. Overall there just wasn’t enough to bring me back.

2/5 PAWS

Jordan Harris, Times Staff

Album: At the Speed of life
Artist(s): Xzibit
Released Date: Oct. 1996

1996 was a year that had amazing highs and tragic lows in Hip Hop. This was a year where so many iconic albums came out. Many examples would include: The Fugees “The Score,” which ended up winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album the following year, “Reasonable Doubt,” which would introduce the world to JAY-Z, Nas’s sophomore album “It Was Written,” Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me,” Ghostface Killah’s solo debut “Ironman” and more. This was also the peak of the mafioso rap genre. 1996 was also a year where one of the most prominent figures in the genre and game, Tupac Shakur, lost his life in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

But one thing that gets overlooked this year, is the debut album, “At the Speed of Life,” by Xzibit. Xzibit is a rapper who was born in Detroit and moved to Albuquerque but reps the West Coast, mainly the Los Angeles area, as he moved there at the age of 14. After making various appearances on other artists’ records, and going on tour with the Likwit Crew, Xzibit signed to Loud Records, who at the time were famous for signing the Wu-Tang Clan just three years prior.

“At the Speed of Life” at its core is a hard hitting west coast hip hop album that covers everything from street activity and hating phony artists who act tough, like on the cut “At the Speed of Life,” to a much slower song, like the cut “Hit and Run (Part II).” Xzibit’s flow on this record is very much in your face. At times it seems like he’s yelling at you, but that just makes you ride to the song even harder.

Not only does Xzibit shine on this record, but the features that he puts on here are also just as hard hitting as he is. For example, King Tee on “Positively Negative,” or Hurricane G and J-Ro on “Just Maintain.” Even though most of the songs of this album don’t carry strong hooks, and don’t necessarily need them, Xzibit still shows that he can hit with a decent hook, like on “Paparazzi,” which ended up charting on Billboard and peaking at #83.

Another thing that stands out on this track are Xzibit’s one liners and bars. For example, on “Paparazzi” he says, “But too much of anything can make you an addict.” Another example is found in “Eyes May Shine;” just the simple line of “Holding down ground like the Statue of Liberty.”

Xzibit also shows his capability in storytelling on songs like “The Foundation” and “Carry the Weight.”

All in all “At the Speed of Life” is a strong debut that is hard hitting but starts to limp its way towards the finish line. It is a strong recommendation for whoever wants to learn more about hip hop culture.

4/5 PAWS

Emmanuel Becerril, Times staff