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Taking a listen

Taking a listen

Reviews of local & state music CDs

Tenacious — Whodathunk?

Somewhere, there’s an unassuming 30-year-old guy sitting in a cramped cube blowing off piles of spreadsheets to have a post-post-adolescent daydream about cutting his first rap record. Who would have thought that one of those 30-year-olds would actually take it upon himself to do it? Greensboro rapper Tenacious (www.myspace.com/princenainoa) had something that he just had to let out and he did it in the form of his first album, the appropriately titled Whodathunk? The result is an album that’s simultaneously aggressive, clever and brims with the kind of fire that the author’s name implies. It’s equal parts Dirty South rhymes and West Coast underground beats with such a diverse array of producers on board that each cut sounds fresh and imaginative. From the jazzy hooks on “Listen to Me” to the rapid fire dub of “Jah Bless,” Tenacious’ hard, biting flow is the glue that holds it all together. Plenty of guests from the Mightier Than the Sword crew show up in support, with nine of the album’s 16 lyrical tracks featuring label mainstays Medic, Avalanche, Ski, Ty Bru and William Zaybiane. Tenacious can often be brusque and confrontational with his lyrics, but he shows a more lighthearted side with on the funky “Vacation.” The horn-heavy title track is a hard-hitting diss track backed up by Unconscious Rascall, while Tenacious later gives tribute to the deceased Tre Stylez with an opening monologue bit from The Shawshank Redemption on “Now That You’re Gone.” Guest rapper DVUs later shows up to help Tenacious wax poetically on the spiritual benefits of the occasional day off and his laissez-faire vocal character provides the ideal compliment. There are times when the occasional one-liner sounds second hand, but it’s easily one of the better local rap records of the year.

73/100

S. Burns — Maximum Wage

While naming yourselves as dwellers of Greensboro’s music underbelly is certainly a feather in no one’s cap, narco-prog rockers S. Burns (www.myspace.com/sburns) seem to savor the relative obscurity that accompanies such residency. With their second album, Maximum Wage, on the horizon, however, they may have to brace for the possibility of a stratified ascension. While markedly less abrasive that their 2008 debut Meanwhile at the Burn Pile, the songs on Maximum Wage don’t require repeated listening to foster appreciation. They affect immediately and relentlessly, even if at only seven tracks in length, it blurs the line between EP and LP. Opener “Vegan in Furs” kicks off with a jagged intro by front man Brandon Adams that owes a debt to James Blood Ulmer, while his vocals fall just short of the shrill wail of the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The sprawling “Timpani Belle” trades between sparse instrumental backdrops and stout aural barrages over nearly eight minutes. One thing to note about this album is a rather curious mixing job: Each of the three instrumental and the single vocal components rarely sound cohesive, yet somehow, it works well within the context of the material. Although the album lags somewhat in parts and is bogged down a bit by the overarching sameness of the guitar sound from one track to the next, this is more than a promising start to S. Burns’ climb into significance.

69/100

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