The concept was creative, the recording process a whirlwind of energy, and within a weekend, the Tunnel Rats had produced a groundbreaking project. Bringing together a collection of gifted emcees, known and unknown, a super crew was formed that raises the bar for all those involved with hip-hop. A unified effort is the strength of the TR project Underground Rise.
All of the production for this disc was handled in house by T-Rat members Dert, Jerms, Donovan Luke Henry and Raphi—with excellent results. Dert brings pure heat on the opening number "How We Get Down." This track displays Macho's growth as an emcee and a hook composer. It also shows the depth of the Tunnel Rats. Sev Statik, Elsie and Propaganda all excel over the head-nodding beat. In a dream collaboration, Deepspace 5's Manchild and Playdough hookup with Jurny Big (LPG) on "You Don't Want That." Skills that few can compete with are laced by the three emcees. Jerms' first beat ("Southern Brutality") paves the way for southern style flows from Dokument, Propaganda, Neogen (from Remnant), and Mass Reality's Lazarus and Reconcile. Reconcile's blistering verse on "Brutality" demonstrates the impressive talent he displays throughout the disc:
"Notorious for causing lock jaw / Got cats bugging at the awe of the raw skill / Displayed in the midst of the real / Express truth to influence youth / Going on the right path / I still got one question to ask / In reality how many people want to run up on the mass / Graduated top of the class... / Words penetrate like the force of a double barreled sawed-off / Thrown like a cocktail Molotov / Plans to retaliate might as well be called off."
The guest appearances continue with LMNO from the Visionaries on the unique "Kick Kick." Sekou the Misfit raps with God on the eye opening "Devil's Advocate," a track that will challenge notions about the practicality of God. The Listener (Labklik, DS5) and Dezin8ed join Sev Statik for the underrated "Concentrated." Humourous and thought provoking lyrics run throughout, with Sev cleverly dropping his frustrations of Humanistic theory. Donovan Luke Henry provides one of his greatest works to date on "Lost." Raphi, Macho and Neogen rhyme smoothly over a rich musical backdrop of strings, guitar, keyboard and percussion. Among the upbeat battle raps of this record, the emcees' tender deliveries about troubled teens make this track one that should touch young listeners. The pace quickens again as Dert provides the most commercially entertaining beat ("Real Money") and proceeds to rap on it. Why hasn't this cat dropped a verse before? This is a standout track that has to battle several songs for the title of best on the album.
In an historic moment, the Tunnel Rats hook up with the other Cali super crew LA Symphony on "One Voice." As Symph's leader Flynn says "These moments are so legendary." With all the skill on this track, it's a shame that this song only clocks in at four minutes. The back half of the album contains fewer blazing tracks, but the overall work here is strong, with above average tunes "The Knack," "Cyphers" and "Doing Life." The final track "Remember This Day" serves as the perfect finale to this epic project. The cypher boasts 15 emcees including 2MEX (Visionaries) and underground cats Professor Who, Chosen1 and Griffin. As Raphi viciously carves up the final verse, the beat ends and the beat-boxing cypher begins. As the participants begin to freestyle, the listener is transported back to the park, where emcees used to battle simply for the love of the art.
This is a no-brainer. Pick up this disc and share it with friends. Underground Rise is a great example of how cooperation can be achieved in Christian hip-hop. The emceeing rises to a new level, and the beats reflect the preparation of the Tunnel Rats to take the industry by storm this year. A must have for any hip-hop fan.
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