Monday, May 30, 2011


it recently came to my attention that Z-Man, a great MC I've been a long-time fan of, was a part of another crew I'd never heard of, and they had two albums out since 2005 that I'd totally slept on. They're called One Block Radius, and consist of Marty James, Z-Man and MDA. God damn, Z-Man is prolific! So I quickly tracked down and ordered both albums... the CDs were both cheap on Amazon, so I didn't even bother checking for clips or anything, I just ordered.

So their first album is the self-titled One Block Radius on Island/ Def Jam/ Mercury. And it's, umm... pretty wack overall. But it's good in parts. Okay, here's the deal. This is like some cheesy pop/rock/rap/whatever else group that somehow had the good taste to enlist Z-Man. The main, sung vocals range from corny to downright unlistenable. And the production feels very teen-marketed; I could see these songs being performed on some Nickelodeon channel music show geared at pre-teens.

But here's the upside. Z-Man has some nice verses. I mean, some are better than others - some could be completely forgotten in the sands of time and it'd be no great loss. And none of them are like his best stuff. But he's on pretty much every song, and the rap parts are often very distinct from the rest of the song. The music typically breaks down to a rawer track for him to spit on, and while he's not as unrestrained as he would be with Luke Sick and friends... well, there is an Explicit Lyrics warning on the disc. If someone was so inclined - someone with more free time than myself - they could cut all the rest of songs away from the rap parts and make a pretty neat little EP.

Also, a few of the tracks occasionally have some brief moments of good scratching, because one of them doubles as a DJ.

So that was in 2005. Then, in 2008, they came back with a follow-up album, Long Story Short, this time on Avatar Records. I wouldn't have bothered with this second outing if I hadn't gone and bought that both at the same time. But this one is considerably better. Maybe it's the fact that they're no longer under the evil auspices of multiple major labels, but the music is considerably more adult-sounding and hip-hop oriented. At least on some of the songs. Others still suck just as much as they ever did. And I'd still love to strip the other vocalists from this album completely. But this album has actually straight-up good, worthwhile songs that wouldn't require a music critic with audio software to edit them down into something tolerable.

It's all still for Z-Man completists and the aggressively open-minded only. But if you fit into one of those two categories, the second album is worth checking for. And there's also a 12" single off that album with some exclusives on it (the first album had a single, too, but there's nothing noteworthy about it). Oh well. At least I got a few good Z-Man verses out of it, and I only paid like a penny each for them on Amazon. And hey, if their third album shows as much improvement as their second did from their first... then that means it might really be pretty good.

1 comment:

  1. Z is actually a good friend of some of my close friends and I just have never been able to get into the One Block Radius material. I really liked Z's shit as a teenager when he was gettin' down w/ Sacred Hoop, but haven't really been a fan of his later work.