Union Blak – Street English

Kimba and Sir Williams follow last year’s “Union Blak Friday” with another smooth, scratch-heavy album that proudly claims to follow the legacy left by groups such as Gang Starr and De La Soul. Those are big shoes to fill, so it’s no surprise that “Street English” never quite reaches those levels of classic Hip Hop. If you hadn’t guessed by the name of the group (or this album), Union Blak have a British influence, namely Sir Williams, while emcee Kimba is American. Despite the name, Union Blak don’t sound British at all, aligning themselves with the French record label Effiscienz, known for pushing American rappers Dirt Platoon and Fel Sweetenberg. The songs “Street English” and “The Truth” sound like Gang Starr’s work on “The Ownerz” and while it is far from original material, it’s done well. Kimba’s monotone flow isn’t quite as captivating as Guru however, often relying on the slick sample-led instrumentals to keep the listener interested. Considering the scratched hooks are some of the best moments here, it’s quite jarring to hear female vocalist Candice on songs “Our Time” and “Quarrels”. Just as “Mega Philosophy” from Cormega threw in singing that didn’t sound a natural fit, Union Blak’s least effective tracks suffer the same fate.

Kimba sounds eerily close to Common on “Chasing the Wind”, and it ends up being the best song on the album because he displays more emotion than he does elsewhere. Thanks to Sir Williams’ beat especially, it’s a highlight that stands out amongst the final four tracks, which save the album from being as boring as it could have been. Granted, many of these beats are dope when coupled with the scratches, but Kimba’s rhymes are largely bland and would suit an emcee with a bit more fire in their belly.

If you are craving a smoother approach to Hip Hop and enjoyed the latest Kenn Starr album “Square One”, this album will satisfy for the duration, but it’s hard to see this staying in your rotation given how strong 2015 has been already.

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