'Ink Is My Drink'
The triumphant return to action of Rawkus Records is not an NYC 'backpacker hip-hop' project - far from it. Producer K-Murdock's beats are wildly experimental, fusing genres in a manner that befits his background with the Low Budget crew of Philadelphia, of which MC Raw Poetic is also a native. Murdock is unafraid to stitch and fuse together syncretic elements - Trip of the Century oscillates between a B-Boy break and a warped old-skool R&B sample, while Stax-soul strings rise and fall in the background. As an opener and statement of intent, it is devastatingly effective, the breaks in Raw Poetic's hyper-kinetic flow serve to whet the appetite for action. Steel Kites is a powerful narrative about black hope and ambition, and demonstrates Raw Poetic's ability to uplift when talking about negative issues, much like Guru and CL Smooth did back in the good old mid 90s. Coulda Woulda Shoulda successfully melds Mos Def to Maxwell, the most saccharine moment on the album. Panacea have mass appeal like A Tribe Called Quest, but they are not backwards-looking - they stand alongside Spank Rock (also a Philly native) in their ability to successfully mutate the blueprint of hip-hop. A polished and original debut. [Bram Gieben]