By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Not as raw as Hell's Kitchen, not as bouncy as Human Condition, the latest offering from Junkyard DJs Ming & FS, Subway Series, is a funky, flexing display of free-flowing hip-hop and quirky subconscious breaks that waxes poetic through a mechanized playing field. The New York natives maintain mainframe traces of the hard percussive clanks and belching bass lines that defined their breakthrough work but now bang their dirty dishes on the walls of hip-hop's multidimensional halls. These things happen. Since their emergence from the depths of Lower Manhattan, the Gotham duo have defied the laws of categories and scratched out an original sound while gaining more acclaim with each release. Incorporating urban rap with the sonic clatter of industrial-strength break beats, Ming & FS have plenty of jagged space to explore their subterranean thoughts.
"Strictly 'ardcore, ready or not," Dr. Israel warns from the opening salvo "Steady Shot," and from there it's straight-up Manhattan in all its dirty, vibrating glory. Like other turntable trailblazers Grandmaster Flash, early Beastie Boys and the Wu-Tang Clan, Ming & FS manage to capture the heart and soul of the East's biggest beast with a deft ear for the underground rhythm fueling this megalopolis. The DJs have time to pay homage to old-skool b-boy style, particularly with the powerful and soulful cut "The Most Dangerous Drip"; dis record-industry politics on the ironically catchy "Jingle Hell"; and bask in a beautifully reverberating bridge with "Retrace." After the critical beating they took when Human Condition dropped (too much experimentation, not enough substance), Ming & FS have decided to scale back on the testing and stick to the snap-crackling drum and bass that made their name. With loopy spaced-out whistling, soothing trumpet refrains over acoustic guitar samples and cameo raps by the likes of Churchill and Nafis, Subway keeps a delicate balance in check while furthering the reaches of hip-hop.
The beauty of Ming & FS is their innate ability to be hard-core and not resort to lame gangster bravado or inflated pimp egos (OK, they do bless the ganja on "Dope Dance," but even that's not a crime in some states). Today anyone with raspy vocal cords can spew rhymes debasing women and glorifying violence, but to stay true to the street roots takes more skill than your average puff fad. As the track "The Answer" closes, a feeling-it woman begs for more and swears to "break two teeth out yo mouth" if she ain't satisfied. Subway Series comes through with the junk goods and spares Ming & FS any grill damage. Ready or not, New York is back in a big way.
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