Living Legends – The Gathering
Legendary Music / ADA (4/8/08)
Hip-hop / Rap (Live concert, Vocal play)
The Living Legends are a collection of eight underground MCs of varying fame. In alphabetical order, they are Aesop, Bicasso, Eligh, The Grouch, Luckyiam, MURS, Scarub and Sunspot Jonz. They’ve come together on The Gathering—a seven track EP that serves as something of an introduction both to the collective group, as well as their individual MC talents.
We get off to a strong start on the opening title-track. The production is terrifically understated, which allows the lyricism to take center stage (“I work like a Mexican / Run like an African… Hungry as Somalians”). They manage to squeeze as much talent as they can on here with great chemistry and a pro-West Coast shout out at the end, so (naturally) I approve.
“She Wants Me” has a weirdly effective synthy beat that’s downright haunting. Initially, it doesn’t sound like something that would work with what I thought would be a chest-thumping man track, but this one’s got a darkly comedic vibe. Think of a give-and-take on psycho girlfriends who might be awesomely hot, but just not the ones you’d bring home to meet Mom.
The bar is raised even higher on “Pants on Fire”. It’s a cut about lying women with another dirge-like beat. The production, in fact, reminded me a little of Dr. Dre’s Death Row days and seemed too overt to be unintentional. I couldn’t help but think of the similar subject matter on the infinitely more cheesy ’90s jam “Mentirosa”—only to hear it called out by name (well, kind of) about 2/3 of the way through.
Unfortunately, things kind of limp towards the finish line.
The “group” chorus of “War & Peace” is mildly annoying, while the lyrics attempt to come across as socially relevant, but can’t rise past pandering. “Luva Changer” feels like a mid-’80s ode to a New Edition beat. It’s ultimately uninspiring and run-of-the-mill. Meanwhile, “After Hours” starts out strong, but overstays its welcome with an “extended Euromix” beat and superfluous vocals.
The Gathering is strong enough for the first half to be at least worth downloading the best three tracks. I’d love to hear all eight over an entire album. It’d certainly be a challenge—and, as the last half of this LP shows, the group might not be able to weave a cohesive sound from beginning to end—but, “risk” is one thing lacking in rap today. Maybe it takes eight men to bring it back.