ski-beatz-24hr-karate-schoolpngIt’s hard to make a comeback in Hip Hop.  Even when you haven’t really gone away, people tend to forget what you did in the past and move on to the next up-and-comer.  Then again, there are those rare cases in which rappers and producers manage to rejuvenate their careers overnight.  Ski Beatz never left the game, but took a hiatus from his prolific rank in the 2000s.  Known for contributing to Camp Lo’s classic “Luchini” (as well as the rest of their critically coveted debut Uptown Saturday Night) and Jay-Z’s seminal single, “Dead Presidents” (and once again the rest of his debut Reasonable Doubt), Ski has proven time and time again that he is beyond capable of making hits.  However, for better or worse the game changed and artists like Jay abandoned their loyal producers in favor of new hit-makers.  At this point, Ski was still making beats, gaining placement on Big Pun and Proof’s final albums as well as a handful of other projects, but by 2000, Ski had faded from the spotlight.  That is until Jay-Z’s former business partner, Dame Dash, enlisted Ski to assist with his newly formed label’s releases.  Crafting nearly all of the beats for Curren$y’s successful Pilot Talk, Ski was once again thrust into the discussion of greatest beatmakers.  Capitalizing on this momentum, Ski remained disciplined, locking himself in the studio all day ala a martial artist studying in the dojo.  Thus the name 24 Hour Karate School is fitting as Ski’s immense body of work directly correlates with his work ethic.  Working with everyone from Jim Jones to Ras Kass, 24 Hour Karate School is Ski’s chance to prove his versatility to a whole new audience and instill his name once again in the minds of ’90s Hip Hop heads.

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Ski Beatz’s frequent collaborators and fellow BluRoc artists, Curren$y and Smoke DZA start 24 Hour Karate School on a high note with the half-baked opener “Nothing But Us.”  On the track originally intended for Pilot Talk, Spitta and George Kush spit about their favorite subject, herb, while Ski displays his MPC mastery with a remarkable horn sample infused with a minimalist jazz guitar riff.  Anyone who listened to Pilot Talk will realize that Ski loves electric guitar riffs.  He continues to excellently mix live instrumentals into his music on “Go” featuring Jim Jones and Curren$y.  Jimmy’s presence compliments the amazing production, and Spitta once again shows off his chemistry with the acclaimed producer.  Ski manages to make the six string instrument sound fresh each time as proven by the following track, “Prowler 2.”  Three of the greatest modern lyricists, Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, and Joell Ortiz, tear up the instrumental to the point of contention as it’s hard to call say laid down the best verse.  Jeans verse is tongue-twisting (“fashion plate, magistrate/fascinating woman, grab the Vaseline and masturbate“); Jay paints a vivid scene with his words (“I’m a keep going until God calls or the sky fall/or they blast me on the grassy knoll and try to blame Oswald“); and Joell lays down an alluring verse sprinkled with throwback video game references  (“to hell is where I sent ‘em/ya just learned the art, I’ve been tighter than your denims/ I’ll Ryu or Ken ‘em“).  With that said, arguably the biggest flaw of 24 Hour Karate School was out of Ski’s hands.  Originally Mos Def was set to be featured on four tracks, but was taken off due to his label not clearing his appearances in time.  In fact, his vocals can be heard on the previously leaked version of “Prowler 2,” as well as the album’s planned single, “Cream of The Planet,” which is featured on 24 Hour Karate School as an instrumental due to these circumstances.  The re-union with Camp Lo is one of the only forgettable tracks on Karate School which mostly falls upon Ski himself.  The instrumental on “Back Uptown” isn’t quite on par with the others on the album, most likely due to its drum-central, gear-driven production.

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Although the pounding bass line on “Do It Big” is hot as are the verses delivered by The Cook Kids and Stalley, the hook referencing popcorn is just that; corny.  Stalley sticks around to lace the head-nodder, “S.T.A.L.L.E.Y.“  The Ohio-born emcee goes in over Ski’s production, bragging, “can’t be seen like a shot in the face/move crowds, breakout who’s starting this race?/Jesse Owens when the beats going/talk diamonds, spit pearls with my teeth showing.”  As 24 Hour progresses, Ski continues to pick artists that do his beats justice.  Tabi Bonney smashes “Not Like Me,” while Curren$y returns alongside Wiz Khalifa to bless one of Ski’s best instrumentals to date on “Scaling The Building.”  Rugz D Bewler delivers verses in spoken word form, which is mediocre at times, although he excels at time (“my city spreads pity like hoods building banks“).  Regardless, Ski overshadows Rugz by going crazy on his drum machine, as he should considering it is his album.  The guitars come back into play on “I Got Mine.”  Although Tabi Bonney and Stalley are equally impressive, Ras Kass steals the show with the one-line, “I f*cked the track first night and won’t call back.”

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Overall, 24 Hour Karate is a relatively triumphant return for Ski Beatz.  It’s hard to pinpoint what prevents it from being considered a ‘classic’ producer album, but if anything the burden rarely falls upon Ski because most instrumentals range from great to amazing, and the features almost always workout. 24 Hour Karate School makes for an enjoyable listen whether you’re paying attention to each verse or simply letting it play in the background as the soundtrack to your daily grind.  With the year nearing a close, 24 Hour Karate School is sure to keep Ski’s name relevant as one of the best producers out right now, so expect more great work from him leading into 2011 .

Ski Beatz ft Curren$y & Smoke DZA “Nothing But Us”

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4.0/5

Purchase 24 Hour Karate School on iTunes