“Freestyle vs. Written” is a benefit album (10% of sales proceeds are donated to Netivot Israel Louna Terror Victim Fund and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding) that combines the skills of underground rap legend C-Rayz Walz with Kosha Dillz, who I’d never heard of before this record.
There certainly have been Jewish rappers in the past–some highly skilled (Abdominal, Adam from The Beasties); some less so, but still respectable (Aesop Rock, Subliminal, Matisyahu); and others just plain unfortunate novelty acts (2 Live Jews). But never before have I heard one so capable of mixing his faith with Hip Hop. Kosha Dillz can use the articles of his faith in a humorous way, without losing respect for them. Never once does he downgrade or diminish Judaism, yet he’s able to craft deft, funny, slick and powerful verses without being preachy. He isn’t interested in converting you, he only wants you to nod your head.
As for C-Rayz, there’s not much that needs to be said about him. He’s a genius ghetto rapper, one of the original members of Stronghold, and a genuine New York City legend, who has recorded with the likes of El-P, Jean Grae, Immortal Technique, and Aesop Rock. He’s the freestyle half of this duo, and he recognized as one of the finest off-the-cuff rappers around.
The two together bridge their cultural divide to create one of the most creative rap albums I’ve heard this Century. “Holiday” shows the dark side of every recognized day of celebration, from Halloween to Groundhog Day to Election Day (“Everybody campaign but nobody registered to vote”) to Cinco De Mayo (“the same day I got locked by the cops”). “I Love Jews,” to the tune of the Delfonics “La La La Means I Love You,” is funny and touching at the same time.
If you take a chance on just one indie rap album this year, make it this one.