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Labtekwon - The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 Review

by Patrick Muldowney

From listening to The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777, it is clear that Labtekwon likes to rap about 4 things: life experience, religion, politics, and sex, which, at moments, causes a tonally fragmented flow to the overall product. He is proficient on all levels, although the sexual joints are a bit disconcerting given their graphic nature. Labtekwon possesses intelligence, so just imagine how many images Luther Campbell could have painted with three times the vocabulary, and you'll understand why I'm keeping this PG-rated by concentrating on the other themes.

Often the religious and political coexist for Labtekwon. On "Due Time", he calls out Kanye West, suggesting he also dropped out of Sunday school, and questioning how he uses "God for your game?" There is little doubt Kanye would have been one of the merchants, or false prophets, Jesus removed from church. Set to a simple keyboard-laden beat, like a great deal of the twenty-three tracks, Labtekwon honors the old school standard of delivering truths without concern for the powers that be. It is entirely sad that unskilled artists buy six to eight figure beats, repeat an uneducated line 50+ times (like "I'm Mike Jones" or "ridin' dirty"), and white bread America supports the idiocy (because no parent has a clue what "ridin' dirty" means), while an artist like Labtekwon would be too challenging to children and too threatening to adults. To continue my digression, I would even make the parental choice of preferring of Labtekwon's X-rated rhymes to Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty", because sex is part of a natural progression to adulthood, whereas I would hope that driving around with weapons and drugs is not. Excuse the sidestep, but The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 serves as a stark reminder of how the state of popular music reflects the values of our society. Labtekwon meshes the intelligence of Boogie Down Productions with the strength of Above The Law, to recapture the value of words over production, or smarts over materialism.

With 23 tracks, Labtekwon displays a great deal of variety. "Nile Childs Revenge" signifies how many tools are present, considering the doo wop hook and Harlem Renaissance-like approach lyrically. Like Arrested Development and De La Soul, "Nile Childs Revenge" conveys messages like, "culture's fading, vultures ate it", to spiritual music, which allows for pleasant knowledge absorption. This is just another way The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 resurrects the forgotten brilliance of hip hop.

From "Rebirth of Black", which should appeal to Black Star fans, to "Nigga Loverz" and "Sex Machine", which reminds me of the rapper I miss most from the recently fallen, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Labtekwon is an underground master who searches his mind, not some producer's lab, for his best tracks. He may not fit into the current world of hip pop, but at least The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 won't be yesterday's news tomorrow.

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