Smif-N-Wessun transcended many of their contemporaries with their 1995 opus Dah Shinin’. Yet, while their debut spawned unforgettable anthems like “Bucktown” and “Sound Bwoy Bureill,” the Brooklyn duo’s subsequent works—’98’s The Rude Awakening and ’05’s Smif ’N’ Wessun: Reloaded—failed to leave any indelible marks. Looking to make up for their past transgressions, Tek and Steele return with a more mature sound and worldly outlook for their fourth disc, simply titled The Album.
With beats handled primarily by producers Tommy Tee and Ken Ring, Smif-N-Wessun exhibit tremendous growth, opting to mix their patented gun-clapping rhetoric with a save-the-world approach. On “Who Gonna Save Us,” Tek pledges allegiance to his presidential favorite, spittin’, “Obama, I stand behind ya/With gun in hand and full body armor,” while Steele urges politicians to “tell the people what they fightin’ for before you send ’em to war.” The duo continues to offer up moving music with the motivational “See the Light” and the soulful “Trouble.” On the latter, Tek pays homage to his deceased twin brother over a swirling vocal sample and hollowed drum track.
Maintaining their Brooklyn steez, the group keeps it gutter with Joell Ortiz and Rock of Heltah Skeltah on “Stomp Thru,” as well as on the ’Pac-inspired “P.N.C for Life.” Unfortunately, the new and improved Smif-N-Wessun struggle when trying to adapt to the electric sound of “Can’t Stop,” a dated ode to dice rollin’. Then, on the heavy-synthed “Can’t Feel My Face,” the track’s strange combination of steel drums and a George Clinton–inspired hook drowns the duo out.
While Smif-N-Wessun present a commendable collection of thought-provoking material, The Album does have its faults. Namely, the overuse of similar drums and the occasional stale hook. Still, Tek and Steele drop a few lyrical gems that, hopefully, faithful fans will unearth, ’cause real heads wrekonize.—ROB MARKMAN