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Tunnel Rats
[ tunnel vision ]


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Tunnel Vision - Click to view!“Still much to learn/ props to earn/ many heads to turn/ numerous mics to burn/ We don’t want the gold, we want the platinum/ Not only for the loot and the plaque/ but the type of influence to put the RATS on the map!”

With these lyrics, found on the first track of Tunnel Vision, the first release of the Tunnel Rats in five years, the mission has begun. The Rats are well known in the California underground for their integrity and loud voice against the negativity of mainstream hip-hop. Now Uprok Records has given them a chance to make a difference through this mainstream release. And the crew does not disappoint.

“A Long Road” kicks off the album, a two-minute intro declaring the Rat’s view on the next stage of their career. The crew, consisting of Dax, Raphi, Elsie, Sev Statik, Macho, Zane and Jurny Big are all introduced in the next song “Tr’z”. One member that you will never hear from but cannot overlook is producer Dert. Dert, with help from fellow Rats, does a stellar job on the album. Tunnel Vision has a very clean sound and each beat is noted for its simplicity. However there is enough diversity to keep the listener’s head nodding with each track. Standout songs for Dert are the album’s singles. The hardcore, techno influence of “Tr’z” and the catchy drum pattern of “Bow Down” force the listener to push the repeat button. These songs alone should put Dert on the map as one of the most creative beat makers currently around.

While there are several excellent collaborations on Tunnel Vision, the album also includes songs from each individual emcee or subgroup. Each member has plenty of moments to shine on this release. In Sev Statik’s self-titled song, he rips over a beat with an East Indian flavour commenting on his plight as an independent artist. Sev also performs well on “For The Heads” and “Line Finish” where he educates his audience on the place the Tunnel Rats hold in hip-hop. Macho and Elsie, the brother – sister combo that form the subgroup New Breed perform the album’s title track (with another addicting beat from Dert). Macho dubs himself the “microphone missionary” in the club friendly “Bow Down” while Elsie holds a powerful message for the women on “Ladies”. That song is a collab with Zane – a relative unknown to the mainstream audience. The other female emcee in the crew brings an exotic and poetic flow to her song “Chainge”. On the R&B flavoured “2 Cents”, she provides a strong verse chastising ignorant critics.

Los Angeles emcee Raphi Henley produces his delightful cut called “Motivate”. He provides a sputtering flow over a laid back West Coast beat. The extended verse he performs on “Pray For The Morning” has this writer begging for a solo album. The vocal layering is highly enjoyable as he spits on the fast paced “Human Race”. Also performing on that track is Jurny Big, one half of West Coast godfathers LPG (Living Proof of Grace), another Tunnel Rat subgroup. Some listeners might have heard LPG on Grits’s Factors of the Seven album but unless your ear is pressed closely to the ground you will not have heard these emcees before. Do not make the mistake of underestimating them though. While Jurny is only on 5 songs, he shines brightly, especially on “Human Race” and the LPG song “Remember”.

“For years I sat and watched and often had the urge to speak/ On all those mediocre gospel rappers skidding off the beat/ Perpetrating about how they tight and how open mics get freaked/ Knowing full well you weak and couldn’t reach me at your peak.”

While Dax, Jurny’s partner, contributes a good overall performance, he also takes somewhat of a backseat to the newer Rats. However, in “Tripped Over A Dream”, he provides a heartfelt verse as he shares his frustration with God at the slow pace of his hip-hop career. Dax also successfully attempts singing on the hidden track (“Chainge remix”) as well as “2 Cents”.

This is a well-crafted album that is finally starting to get some attention from a mainstream audience. The production is fantastic with only a few flaws that aren’t worth mentioning. The lyricism is honest, heartfelt and filled with integrity. This crew has skills and deserves that platinum plaque. Whether they get it or not remains to be seen but regardless, Tunnel Vision has begun a new era of respectability in Christian hip-hop.
- Jon Corbin
May 2002
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