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THE BLUE COLLAR SESSIONS EP (2002)
The Blue Collar Sessions - Click to view!While we sit listening to the latest Ja Rule or Shakira hit, Mars Ill is building a revolution. As Jay-Z and Eminem go platinum in the first week of sales, Mars Ill is slowly changing music. The rumblings started with Raw Material, and now Manchild and Dust are taking it to the next level. The Atlanta duo finally received some props from indie label Ill Boogie Records. As part of the Earplug Series, the crew joined three other groups in releasing EP's of new material. The result is The Blue Collar Sessions, hard work with a sweet payoff.

The album is seven songs deep clocking in at just under 30 minutes. The intro "Progress" is a laid-back scratching fest from producer DJ Dust. As you take in the music, it is clear that "progress" defines this whole project. This group never rests on their laurels or their past success; they just keep getting better. "Live From Atlantis" opens with crashing symbols and a rock influenced electric guitar. Dust transports you to a live show, with a full rock band, making very fresh hip-hop sounds. Extra attention has been paid to the beat on this track and it is astonishing. In all my listening experience I've never heard someone create such a live sound with a drum machine before. Manchild reps his hometown with a boldness that has not appeared in previous projects. He provides a balanced view of the city, a hip-hop antithesis to Jermaine Dupri's "Welcome to Atlanta." "2 Steps" brings us back to Dust's familiar mid-tempo beats and strong bass lines. A wailing electric guitar is used to create a somber mood as Manchild describes the lives of three people who are "another couple steps from where they need to be." The vocal samplings, reminiscent of some gospel songs, are very effective here. Manchild surprises us by including himself in this song. We are entrusted with some deep revelations of his heart and his family life that leave us on the edge of our seats.

The break-dancers are called to the floor for "Redefine." This track, produced by Ohmega Watts, brings a refreshing change to the album. Manchild uses his smooth vocals over Watts' head banging beat to describe their effort to "redefine how music makes you feel." "The Siren Song" is the clearest example of Dust's growth as a producer. A dark mood is created by a brooding bass and slow yet forceful beat that takes us back to "F-Words" from Deepspace 5's album. Guest emcee Jax and Manchild share their thoughts on the forces of discouragement also known as the "siren". The music "revolution" of Mars Ill is described in detail in "My Coloring Book." Once again Dust proves he is an innovator with his unusual but imaginative beat. Finally we get a look into the mind of Soulheir the Manchild in "Badlands." Creatively, Manchild paints a picture of the bars where he has played and passionately relays the effect of those experiences on his opinion of humanity. He wraps up this journey with a provocative anecdote of a humbling conversation he had with a bartender. This track is not to be missed.

Musically, Mars Ill excels on this album. Lyrically, Manchild takes you soaring once again. Not to be taken for granted is the extra production time that goes into consistent layered vocals and musical samples. These elements add a great deal to each track and define Mars Ill as a crew. For those of you that can't get enough of these guys, this project is for you. And for those who have never heard of Mars Ill - what are you waiting for? Mars Ill might call themselves blue-collar workers, but they are slowly climbing the path to stardom.
- Jon Corbin
September 2002
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