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Traveling Circus

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Album Review

After his deliriously diverse debut, Is This Thing On?, RedCloud retrenches for his follow-up Traveling Circus. The title is a reflection of the many guest artists, including Braille, Man of War and MaxOne, singers Kaitlyn Cassels, Sherwin Gardner, Sam Hart and Ulali, multi-instrumentalist Brandon Musser, and of course sirRok, with labelmates Sackcloth Fashion taking the executive production credit. With so much talent at his side, it's no wonder RedCloud sounds so pumped...and boastful. A surprising number of his raps are given over to freestyle flights of verbiage which, stripped of their tongue-tying acrobatics, boil down to "I'm/We're the best." It's expected on the title track which introduces the cast, but also infests the threatening "The Coming," the Western flavored "8000 RPM's," the guitar driven "Bonifide Xtreme," and the moody "Chit Chat." Even so, God still gets His due, notably on the Latin tinged, pop combo "Never Let You Go" and the heartfelt "My Way." The adamant rap of "Don't Wear It Out" has a religious sheen, one of a number of songs with a Christian edge. Jesus may save, but hip-hop too has offered salvation for many lost on the world's meanest streets, and "Broken Jaw" reflects both the genre's power and pull. Although Native American chants and rhythms underlay a number of the tracks here, only the haunting "Indigenous Angel" is themed around the experience. In contrast, "Battle Star Galactic" is out of this world; RedCloud is at his most inspired, although his theme is hard to decipher, beyond the braggadocio and nod to his west coast home. Although less musically adventurous than the last set, the beats and hooks here are strong, and there's excellent use of live guitar, bass, and piano. The minuet-esque "My Way" takes inspiration from "Love Is Blue"; "The Coming" combines Native American and African beats to great effect; gloomy post-punk and fiery rock guitar drive "Bonafide"; Sam Hart's backing vocal conjures up a haunting atmosphere on "Chit Chat," and the incredibly catchy "Put It On" defies easy categorization. Incidentally, that number is the only one to edge into larger cultural issues, with the rapper adamantly non-committal. Some fans may be initially disappointed by the dearth of thrills and fun that featured so prominently on Is This Thing On?. But by stripping back to hip-hop basics, RedCloud's awesome raps now come to the fore, and that's entertainment enough.


Born: California

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s

A West Coast rapper with Mexican and Native American heritage, the poignant RedCloud had already been in and out of violent gang life by the time he was in the ninth grade. Getting out wasn't easy, but once out he changed his life and began studying the Bible along with hip-hop. Combining the two, he started rapping his positive and hopeful message to the Los Angeles hip-hop underground. His 2001 debut, Is This Thing On?, was followed by a six-week run as champion of Los Angeles radio station Power...
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Traveling Circus, RedCloud
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