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One Block Radius

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Album Review

"Unclassifiable" is such a buzzword in the alternative hip-hop world, and while One Block Radius' self-titled effort is just that, it's not always for the right reasons. This three-man crew features Marty James and MDA from Scapegoat Wax — who were signed to the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label — plus Z-Man from the extended Hieroglyphics crew. That's an exciting recipe for something different, but add a major label plus some production from hitmaker Happy Perez and OBR, who loose their Sublime meets Tribe Called Quest flow, and end up being pushed towards Black Eyed Peas-styled slickness. The reggae flavors explored on many of the tracks suggest they'd much prefer the Fugees but sometimes this expensive, near-perfect sound works. Take the lead-off single, "You Got Me," which comes off like the Flobots meet Akon, or the positive "Steppin' Away" which puts nylon-string guitars under James' "check yourself before you wreck yourself" lyrics. It's not all about the message as the slacker anthem "Screwin' It Up" gives alt-hip-hop its "What I Got" while the ridiculous "Choc-O-Lot" combines dancehall sounds, Digital Underground attitude, and an electro beat. Sounds delicious, and while it is in tiny bites, this self-titled album never sorts its divergent sounds in any sensible manner, and the band's maverick attitude always seems at odds with the pristine production. Even if it falls short, One Block Radius is an interesting miss refreshingly free of "get money" attitude and T-Pain cameos.


Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s

One Block Radius is an alternative rap trio from California who paid their dues for several years before making their major-label debut in 2008. Comprised of Marty James (a singer, songwriter, and producer from Chico, CA), Z-Man (a rapper from San Francisco, born Zamon Christian), and MDA (a DJ and graphic artist born in Indiana), the group cites a diversity of influences including the Pharcyde and De la Soul as well as Sublime and Hall & Oates. The group members began their musical careers individually....
Full Bio
One Block Radius, One Block Radius
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