(AZT Records, CD)
It's official: The Queen City is in the middle of a hip-hop boom. Over the last couple of years, Burlington's rappers and DJs have raised the bar for homegrown "urban" music. Make room for The Aztext, whose excellent Haven't You Heard is destined to become a local hip-hop classic.
Featuring the microphone talents of Pro and Learic, The Aztext trade in alliterative rhymes with more twists and turns than 89 South.
Following an obligatory introduction, the disc kicks into gear with "It's True," a track also featured on the recent compilation Greetings From Vermont. Tough yet tuneful, the song boasts bluesy, sampled piano and an articulate flow.
"Breakthrough" is loaded with good-natured braggadocio. In keeping with hip-hop tradition, the duo spends plenty of time cataloguing their skills. But their rapid-fire lyrics break from the norm, glorifying musical integrity over commercial success.
"Learn to Talk," looks at self-identity through a Québecois lens. "Growin' up a half-American/Canadian kid, I never knew home sweet home, that's just the way that it is," Pro states. "Thinkin' in French, speaking in English and playin' with kids / Who did the opposite, and know what they was sayin' and shit." It isn't your average street narrative. But, as the advice goes, write what you know.
"You Is You" takes president Bush to task for the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. "We got a crisis in the making, lots of lives are being taken / I'm sorry the president had to return early from vacation," the rappers chide. "Where were you when they needed you? / Oh, you can send 18-year-olds to Iraq to get killed but can't protect your own red, white and blue?" Sadly, the questions are still relevant.
"Better Act Like You Know" is a ready-made club banger. Again, the lyrics reflect the ethics of the underground. "Soon as you're major then they say, 'don't go against the grain' / So I decided if it happens, I'll just let it rain," the MCs proudly declare.
Indie hip-hop star Wordsworth pops by for the title track, a spicy cut with a coarse guitar sample and ball-busting beat. Things (literally) go south on "This Right Here," which features a slow-motion groove straight out of cough syrup-happy Houston.
Chances are The Aztext won't be asking Haven't You Heard? for much longer. Their CD release party takes place at Nectar's on Tuesday,