For nearly the past decade, the Kentucky-based trio, CunninLynguists, have proved that even with the influx of Southern Rap, there is still an outlet for underground Hip Hop in the South. By aligning themselves with Southern Rap powerhouses such as the Dungeon Family as well as reaching out to East Coast and West Coast legends like Masta Ace and E-40, the group now consisting of Deacon and Natti on the mics and Kno on the boards, has gained a loyal following. Picking up where May’s Strange Journey Volume One left off, the crew is back enlisting the help of some familiar faces and some unexpected guests.
Volume Two gets underway with “Imperial” featuring Freddie Gibbs. Kno drops a ridiculous instrumental on this one and it also serves as one of Gibbs only official appearances. This track really demonstrates the Lynguists’ ability to blend styles together, mixing a West Coast beat with down-south style and an East Coast flow. “Streets” featuring Sean Price & Poison Pen is one of the hottest tracks on the album. Even though the track seems custom-fit for Mr. Price, Natti comes off with the nicest delivery.
The album is not short of jams essential for a Lynguist fan. The lead single, “To Be For Real” has one of the nicest samples I’ve heard all year. Deacon goes in on his authenticity, spitting, “fabricating your life/I just have to write mine/be ahead of the game, gotta have the right mind/I just do it while others want the night shine” with an impeccable flow. “The Park“ remix by Blue Sky Black Death is another tremendous addition to the CunninLynguist catalog. With a smooth, inspirational instrumental, Deacon and Natti describe “what coming together could equate” on a beautiful day. The live rendition of “Nothing to Give” is an instrumental feat for Hip Hop albums today. Deacon and Natti go verse-for-verse over live instruments, which is definitely a treat for Lynguist fans and new listeners alike. CunninLynguists’ ode to “Cocaine” features a classic J-Zone instrumental that sounds like it was left in one of his crates years ago. This is one of the more interesting concept tracks by the Lexington crew, despite the abundance of rap songs dedicated to the substance these day (“politicians doing rails off a hooker’s spine/same shit they lock n*ggas up for tryin’ to grind/cuz it adds ten years if you mix it with soda…the War Against Drugs, who the f*ck is the soldiers?/without drug money the economy folds up/cops won’t get paid to harass and roll up). The samples of news reports add to the aura set by the Lynguists on this track ((“more Americans are sniffing cocaine because higher stress levels due to the recession”). “Running Wild“ features E-40 and Evidence, two West Coasters from different scenes. The compatibility of the four emcees on this track is unparalleled by most official groups. This is easily one of the hottest songs that won’t make it to the radio this year.
With all this quality material, CunninLynguists manage to rise above making just another rap album, as even Volume Two’s worst songs are better than some artist’s best. “The W.W.K.Y.A. Tour “featuring Substantial & Extended F@mm is a solid posse cut, but the beat gets way too redundant to hold up with the rest of the instrumentals on this LP. Regardless, the track shows how the QN5 crew holds it down lyrically in comparison to their peers. “Tear Trax” featuring Cashmere the Pro is subpar compared to other tracks. The song is a tale of a spousal abuse, which is well illustrated through the verses, but contains a lackluster hook, which significantly reduces its replay value
There’s really nothing that can take away from Strange Journey Volume Two. Proving it’s possible for a sequel to outdo its predecessor, CunninLynguists have created an album in line with themselves and not swayed by the climate of Southern Rap. When the dust settles from the dirt road their ’73 Imperial kicked up, it becomes apparent that in a league of average rappers, Deacon, Natti, and Kno are true artists, more concerned with harmony and structure than swag. Two things are for sure, Kno is often overlooked as a one of the top producers out there today, and this is one of the Lynguists strongest efforts to date.