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Masters of Illusion

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Album Review

Comprised of Kool Keith, Motion Man, and producer Kutmasta Kurt, the debut album from Masters of Illusion surprisingly exceeds the sum of its parts. In the face of the sounds of mainstream hip-hop that dominated the airwaves upon its release, Masters of Illusion are a welcome anachronism from the underground. Himself an underground hip-hop pioneer, the eclectic and prolific Kool Keith fits all too well with Kutmasta Kurt's production, which more resembles the old school-inspired beats and soundscapes of Keith's former group, the Ultramagnetic MC's, as opposed to most of the solo material that he has released in the '90s. Proving to be a skilled foil to partner and frequent collaborator Kool Keith (Sex Style, Black Elvis, DR Dooom) is the Bay Area's Motion Man, who uses this opportunity to flaunt his aggressive abstract style. In addition to standout efforts from Kool Keith and Motion Man, the album's real star is producer Kutmasta Kurt. At his best, Kurt incorporates head-nodding beats and innovative scratching that recalls and mixes the drama of Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and the cut-up style of Gangstarr's DJ Premier. Feeling more refreshing as opposed to being overly derivative or recycled, Kurt's beats often sound like they belong among the hip-hop of the late '80s and early '90s. Even though the individual songs on Masters of Illusion are generally not overlong, the album only slightly overstays its welcome by the end. Also, the album could have thrived even more if Kool Keith spent less time rapping about his sexual obsessions and more time talking about weak rappers who "belong to Romper Room." Masters of Illusion is a treat for hip-hop fans who yearn for the sounds of old.

Masters of Illusion, Masters of Illusion
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