By Daniel Paiz
Sometimes too much time passes between projects. This newest installment of “A Week’s Worth Review,” focuses on breaking down The HRSMN’s latest project, “The Last Ride.” As you can imagine, the more people you involve the harder it is to get people on the same creative vibe. Somehow, Ras Kass, Kurupt, Canibus, and Killah Priest figured out the logistics of putting together “The Last Ride.” Unfortunately, this project sounds more like an art experience than a conceptual album.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the skill sets of all four of these emcees. What’s troublesome is how a few tracks in, it already feels like the only direction listeners are going to get is that there are four emcees, and they might tie-in that each guy represents a horsemen of sorts. Ras Kass is Pestilence, Canibus is War, Kurupt is Famine, and Killah Priest is Death.
Track by track
“Sintro” starts with an epic instrumental that sets the scene for the HRSMN to arrive. Each emcee introduces themselves under the guise of being one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” A good start.
Boom Bap rules supreme from the first note of “Centaurs.” This track couldn’t feel any more underground Hip-Hop if you listened to it underneath a manhole cover. Verses on this track are reflective of each veteran emcee from the viewpoint of a “HRSMN.”
“This Shit Right Here” again reminds us each rapper is a horseman, but that’s where the theme dies conceptually. There’s not a larger theme being developed; instead, these guys are flexing their lyrical dexterity. It’s definitely fun, but already on track three as a listener I wonder if the group is going to pull it together. Braggadocio and Boom Bap bluntly bangs against solid production.
“Champion” has more verses and yet it feels like not a lot is being said. Somehow, the guest verse blends in too well with the other emcees.
“Morticians” has vocal samples setting the tone for four horsemen of the Apocalypse to descend upon listeners. Ras Kass does a good job of referencing several cultural wars going on in religious, LGBTQ, and other groups right now. Killah Priest shows out. Canibus continues to make cringy, outdated lines…especially the one about women and sandwiches.
“One Second” shows Ras Kass at this point is carrying this project with his timely references. Kass is living up to his Pestilence persona with multiple infectious rhymes. The guest verse is cringy, especially after Kass. It almost seems like at this point, Kass and Killah Priest are the main engines of this project.
“Love N War” solidly employs a dope sample for this track. All of a sudden it feels like the emcees woke up! There’s direction! Apparently broadly discussing love focuses everyone. Perhaps making a radio friendly track weirdly helps these “real rap” guys sharpen on the mic; yet conceptually, are the four horsemen really going to take a break to find romance?
“Believer” is another track that seems to show group focus. Lots of pop culture references. Boom Bap rap almost at it’s best; the problem again is, there isn’t an overarching storyline. Outside of believing in the rhyme skill sets of each emcee, not much else is discussed. Kurupt sets the tone early with his opening verse.
“False Profits” finally has direction, as Killah Priest follows up a vocal sample addressing the issue of Jesus not being white. This is the closest we’ve gotten to the rhymes aligning with the overall concept. And yet, the track is a brisk one minute, fourteen seconds.
“Apocalips Now” is built up from the previous “False Profits” track, which is promising. Plenty of talk of the end of days across the verses. Very visual. Again, this is tying into the larger narrative, and like a few other tracks, keeps referencing COVID as an end of days type of event.
Ras Kass has a solid opening verse on “Impossible,” especially at the beginning with the “Noah’s Ark” line. This track appears to be built to allow each rapper to highlight their strengths. Canibus’ best verse might be on this track; it feels cohesive, whereas on other tracks it’s lacking. Kurupt quietly drops heat; he’s been underutilized on this tape. Killah Priest matches Kass’ opening verse. “I crucify demons and kill satan when I speak” is a mic-dropping line closing out the song. This effort needs to be bottled and sprinkled over the entire album.
“Burger King” is a let down after the potential realized on “Impossible.” I understand the album cut, a “funny” yet dark track meant to lace pop culture references with nostalgia. But, what’s the point when the overall narrative is only loosely referred to?
“Last Ride” is another track that has an effort level lyrically the rest of the album is missing. It’s almost like this group wanted to combine underground rap with elements of Horrorcore rap, but can only reference that they know Horrorcore exists. The outro is an interview discussing that there were unreleased tracks, adding to the feeling that this whole project was pieced together.
The build-up leading to the release of this project was too big for any artist or group to match. That’s partially the fans’ fault, as well as the fault of the artists. Delaying a group project 18 years is going to lead to unrealistically high expectations. There are moments where things sound really good. Unfortunately, those moments are not capitalized on and rallied throughout the project. Ras Kass and Killah Priest are largely the sources of those realized potential. Kurupt has consistent lines, too. Canibus frankly underperforms; fairly or not, he seems to embody what went wrong. Things were pieced together. The energy from the emcees is consistent, but the rhymes are not.
I’m not one to say there’s too much “rappity rap” on a project, but there are moments when that’s all we get. Even the handful of guests don’t add much to the overall idea. Loosely based lines abstractly connect to the overall theme. Very little depth and overall development go into the idea of being the four horsemen, with one exception: some of the sampled vocals make it sound like we’re going to get fantastic, thought-out cuts. Sadly, those producers didn’t get their creative ideas lived up to most of the time.
Listen to it if you’re a big fan of these four emcees. Listen to it if you like Boom Bap mixed with the lightest sprinkling of Horrorcore. But, don’t go in with expectations or hopes of lyrical prowess: you’ll frustratingly leave the project feeling like these emcees missed a chance at a better album.