Review by Phillip Waters
The last few years, rapper – producer collaboration albums have become a norm. The likes of Prodigy and Alchemist, Freeway and Statik Selektah, and Murs and 9th Wonder have teamed up for the purpose of co creating a project. It takes chemistry and complimenting styles to pull this off. Beatmaker Ambush and rapper Kareem Ali display those very qualities on their album Ali Bomaye.” In fact, they not only deliver the same worthwhile outcome as some of the aforementioned collabs, they work so well together that actual groups like Gangstarr (with Premier on the boards and Guru on the mic for the duration of a career) come to mind after listening to “Ali Bomaye.”
A big part of what makes this album good is the dedication to overall production. The album’s title is a salute to the infamous chant shouted to boxing legend Muhammad Ali during his Rumble in the Jungle fight. Audio clips of the bragadocious Ali are sprinkled all throughout the album, giving it an actual theme. That same tactic is used to give life to songs like “Shut Em Down” and “No More Trouble”. The former is accompanied with playbacks of Gil Scott Heron’s infamous “the revolution will not be televised” speech, as Kareem Ali spits “the spirit of Michael, Marley, and Marvin I will harvest them/ Malcolm, Marcus, and Martin/ I’ll never tarnish them”. The latter samples Bob Marley’s “War/No More Trouble” and plays out like a disillusioned letter Kareem is writing to America with the lines “jailhouse, institutions filled to the brim/matter of time before schools are outnumbered by the prisons/not to mention, how nobody can get a job/the unemployment line look like a angry mob”. It ends with a chilling clip from a local news show with the newscaster speaking about three men being shot in one incident.
While Ambush and Kareem show their synergy, their individual talents are also felt throughout the project. Ambush produces beats that feel like old school DJ Premier and Pete Rock like “What’s My Name”, with a hook comprised of scratches from classic DMX, MOP, and Capone N Noreaga records. Then he comes with beautifully soulful tracks like “Do It Baby” and “Stares and Whispers” which masterfully samples the original Renee Geyer song. It’s no exaggeration that those offerings are on par with what 9th Wonder, Just Blaze, and Kanye West were providing Jay Z with in the early 2000s. As far as Kareem’s MC skills, they fall somewhere between the authoritative knowledge of KRS One and sharp wordplay of Big Punisher. On “Drama” he relays all the sadness of Baltimore, rapping “don’t leave the house without your armor on/ if you stacking that parmesan/ real super villians live here, this not the Comic-Con/ travelers never visit, unless they smuggling guns/ with condoms to our city, because they scared to cum (come)” and “a four year old baby got shot at the inner harbor/ if my crew ever catches them, they’re gonna be goners”. On the standout “African Holocaust” he gives an expansive lesson on the Motherland, hitting every imaginable note.
“Ali Bomaye” does have a few missteps. “Yesterday” rehashes material that was already covered in better suited ways on other tracks. And “One Mic Stand” is filler that doesn’t land any kind of impact. Fortunately, these don’t weigh down the rest of the album in any significant way. In today’s music climate, Ambush and Kareem Ali’s tag team effort is a welcome reminder that dope beats and tight rhymes are more than enough for enjoyment. It’s most evident on “Love In My Heart”. Even their ladies’ catered track gets the Hip Hop-y treatment. Kareem goes lyrical with “she selective/particular about her preference/ me, I like them ethnic/flavors across the spectrum”, while Ambush does a crazy beat switch halfway through.
The duo make a good enough pair on “Ali Bomaye,” they might want to consider coming back for Round 2.
Check out the project on Soundcloud by clicking here.