The musical outputs of La Coka Nostra have been a slow build. Formed in 2005, the hip-hop collective dropped their oft-delayed A Brand You Can Trust to expected fanfare in 2009. Now, reuniting for their second official album—and this one without former member Everlast—Ill Bill, Slaine, DJ Lethal and Danny Boy sprinkle in all the elements of a hardcore underground release with Masters of the Dark Arts.
The aptly titled album finds Ill Bill and Slaine hawking mouthfuls of venomous lyrics and cultural and historical references over shadowy production from Lethal, DJ Premier, Statik Selektah and more. The team of producers provide racing strings and pounding percussion to satisfy the menacing lyricism throughout. Right out of the gate, the vivid, aggressive rhymes of the two MCs are brought to the forefront with “My Universe” and “Creed of the Greedier.” Later, a narrative fire is unleashed with “The Story Goes On,” is a cinematic rushing of synths and furious drums that should be the soundtrack to a heist in a film.
In a curious time for underground hip-hop, informed by the influence of the Internet and the merging of lanes that it creates, La Coka Nostra remain decidedly true to their core with their new album. The veteran crew remind that they are indeed masters of the dark arts. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)