Super-groups are a tough call. Most of the time these things get planted as an idea that never comes to fruition, and other times the idea is milked for all it’s worth. The Gravediggaz, for instance, released an arguably classic album with 6 Feet Deep, only to lose a member – and a degree of quality – with each consecutive release. La Coka Nostra has suffered somewhat of a similar fate, as a series of their early mixtapes boasted a line-up including Danny Boy, Everlast, Muggs, Slaine, Ill Bill, Psycho Realm, DJ Lethal, Swollen Members, and other members of the Soul Assassins and Non-Phixion crews. By the time their first album, A Brand You Can Trust, dropped – membership had scaled back a bit, and with it’s follow-up, Masters Of The Dark Arts, it’s just been narrowed down to essentially Slaine and Ill Bill. However it just so happens that these two are the group’s most lyrically able members, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That being said, there are times when these two completely nail it – such as on the opening track, “My Universe”, featuring Vinnie Paz and a brooding Rakim sample provided by Statik Selektah. The DJ Premier-helmed “Mind Your Business” also stands out, as the duo address internet fans and Twitter rumors, giving a rare glimpse into the men behind the mic. Later on “Malverde Market”, they examine the bloody drug wars currently plaguing Mexico, a politically charged topic mostly untouched in hip-hop.
However the absence of the Soul Assasins crew is felt, as Everlast’s blue-eyed soul singing added something to the group’s grim subject matter. The same can be said for that of B-Real, Muggs and Alchemist, who even if they only contributed in small doses, helped round out the sound of group. Much of the production is overly abrasive, with tracks like “Creed of The Greedier” and “Masters of The Dark Arts” just short of ending with broken glass or gunshot sound effects. This isn’t always a bad thing though, such as on the Ill Bill produced “Letter To Ouisch”, which almost has a Dre & Cube “Natural Born Killers” feel to it.
All in all, this might have been better marketed as an Ill Bill and Slaine collabo record. Both are strong emcees with enough cred to sell the album on name recognition alone, and would avoid the disappointment of a paired down La Coka Nostra. After all, it’s a brand we’ve grown to trust.
- La Coka Nostra – “Masters Of The Dark Arts” Cover Artwork + Tracklist
- La Coka Nostra – “Malverde Market” (Video)