Review: North Star Ressurrec…the saga continues
North Star Resurrec is the first group album from Mujestic Records. This self-titled album is also the first official release from Mujestic with all tracks containing their own original samples. Its an accomplished contrast to the earlier demo by Prach with Dalama or more popularly known as Khmer Rap in Cambodia where many of the tracks contain samples from other artists.
Personally, when I get a new CD, I quickly go through the tracks looking for potential favorites. Then I go back play each song in order in its entirety. While scanning the first half of the album, none of tracks especially caught my attention. I thought to myself this is not good, nothing to anticipate and really soak up and enjoy when I go back to really listen to them. The second half shows a glimmer of light as several of the tracks begin to set themselves apart. Before I go into detail about the album and each track there are a few things that caught my attention during the initial scan. Although there are sixteen tracks on the album, about half of them are skits. The skits themselves are very short with most of them lasting under thirty seconds. This makes the album a very short piece of musical work. The next thing to note is the similar sounds between some of the tracks. However, on the positive note, I did notice an improvement in the track layout and recording quality over Mujestic’s demo release of Dalama. Even with this, if the first impression were all that you had, you could easily be turned away from this album.
Of course, it doesn’t do justice to just look at the surface of anything. Only after several listens do you really begin to realize the musical content contained on this CD. The album opens with eerie beats accompanied with haunting descriptions of Armageddon taking you on a journey through the destruction of the earth and the return. Throughout the album, there is the reinforced idea of cycles and resurrection. This is a nice intellectual inclusion in honor of the group’s name. How far this idea extends is up to judgment of each listener. Could it mean the rebirth of the artist? Maybe even the Cambodian people in general? Or perhaps nothing at all, but only the members of North Star Resurrec will know for sure.
The album does a great job of setting up their vocal sounds. You can easily distinguish their style as one full of complex lyrics and rhymes. Although quite a few tracks sound similar, the vast amount of vocal variety clearly shows the group’s ability. One thing that I noticed lacking was the nice mix of complementing background vocals to the main rap line that was so smoothly done in Dalama.
Out of the total sixteen tracks on the album, six of them are extremely short skits. Each piece helps to create the total picture of the group. The samples for each track are stylishly done by XL and SOBO.
Track 1: Tha Panic
The track starts with a solitary melody suddenly cut off by a flood of rap accompanied by a chilling beat. The lyrics describe the cycle of life with the future bringing mayhem and destruction. The lyrics come from an underground style with highly complex and sci-fi vocabulary. An example is seen in the last lines, “Deep into darkness beyond outer space I’m racing Godspeed into uncharted place. Light years away from civilization, I’m mapping out the star, connecting dots, constellations. Got astronomers waiting, scoping out the skies, hoping we’ll return like resurrected back to life.” And thus the cycle begins again.
Track 2: Northstar (skit)
This skit describing the North Star is perfectly placed following the previous space reference. It’s an informative message associating the qualities of the guiding star with the group. It’s one of the better skits.
Track 3: Resurrec
This track has an interesting combination of Khmer and English. Parts of it tells the story of Prach’s life while the other sections touches on the subject of cycles on various levels. It contains a large excerpt from the New Hope interlude on Dalama.
Track 4: Long Beach CA (skit)
A short skit which expresses pride in their hometown. Long Beach!
Track 5: On Theze Streetz
A track with funky beats and a clearly distinct bass line addressing the realities of street life. It’s a somewhat grim outlook of the streets. The track is done with a solo part from each group member using clever integration of vocal lines during transitions.
Track 6: Blaze (skits)
Blaze is another short skit with not much in it. It’s basically a snapshot of a group member high of something. Make you wonder why not just do something more or integrate it into something else.
Track 7: Static feat. United Nations
This is mainly a verbal track. The beats are simple and unchanging. The lyrics are heated and direct but nothing in the class of poetry. This track is also done with solos from each member. Midway through the track, Prach releases an outburst of anger in Khmer rap.
Track 8: Come 2 Me
Come 2 Me changes the flow of the album. This is the first song addressing the opposite sex. You get a glimpse at a different side of the group. The track has just a touch of R&B, but also has a club flavor due to beats.
Track 9: It’z Been A Long Time
This is a great follow up to the previous track because it features female vocals from Vice Verse Versatile. The R&B harmony is a pleasing contrast to the rap. The unique instrumental melody of the stings makes this one of the more unique tracks on the album. There is one issue with this track. The recording quality is a bit off lacking in the high trebles.
Track 10: Tha Sign Up! (Skits)
Here’s a dramatic skit of a record signup. Somewhat difficult to tell if is intentionally over dramatic. Whatever the case, I found this skit amusing.
Track 11: OD (Overdose!)
An overdose of rhymes is what you find here. The following line says it all, “I can’t take it no more, I need some pain reliever like medicine, aspirin, Tylenol. Who got the illest rhymes, everybody knows, its like pills for your mind till you’re overdose!” Clearly, the flow is fast and unyielding with emphasis mainly in the lyrics while the beats serve as minimal accompaniment.
Track 12: Listen (Skits)
This is an interesting skit. However, it is difficult to tell its purpose. Notice the parallelism of a peaceful night changing with the interruptions of gangs and the transition of time from 1:26-1:27.
Track 13: Cherry Streetz
A track referring to a street running through a major portion of Long Beach connecting the southern and northern center of the Cambodian population together. The Cherry Apartments refer to a complex with mainly Cambodian residents.
Track 14: De Breeze
De Breeze is slow rap with a nicely done combination of instrumental and tone setting in the midst of some deep reflection.
Track 15: Stringz (Skits)
Here’s another comical track in my opinion. Stringz start off pure stream of traditional melody from the Kim played by Dozer and his brother Bee. Then stringz suddenly breaks followed by a mellow word of surprised disappointment.
Track 16: JAEY YO!
JAEY YO!, is like the anthem of this album. It addresses the New Years and pride of Khmer culture. He says, “We are Cambodian children and we must stand tall on both feet.” The rap in Khmer in is very well done with nice rhythm and harmony. Only negative side is an unusual instrumental sample for such a revering song.
North Star Resurrec is an album that takes multiple listens before you can really appreciate it. It’s easy to dismiss it at first, but with some time and adjustment you will find a unique style that is defiantly Cambodian. If you’re looking for something similar to Dalama, you might have to look elsewhere. Don’t expect the Billboards top ten qualities when you listen to this album. Instead, see it for what it is. An album that sets new ground work in an untouched genre. The path is rocky, but they are paving the way as they go along, learning and developing their own styles as they create a place for themselves in the music world. Their potential is undoubtedly there. This album and their past works has an uncanny parallel with early works done by many great artist. Who knows, in a few years you could have a collector’s item in your hand. Watch out, cause Mujestic Records has returned to guide the way with North Star Resurrec.