The Longshots
Hunger Music
Sun City Network

by titling their debut album Hunger Music, the Longshots beg us to question their authenticity. "This is the real street rap," they seem to say. "We have lived through it." With that in mind, this Queens group presents an image of their world that comes like a message in a bottle—it's a plea and a notice. If it echoes back to early street preachers, it's because not much has changed.

Emcees Crayon and Rock Shabazz bring the street preacher imagery to a specifically religious degree early on. The first true track, "Hunger Music" contains plenty of references to the duo's faith. Rock Shabazz explains that "in God we trust" and Crayon offers prayers for those struggling, acknowledging his involvement in spiritual warfare to win back the streets. The discussion of faith leads to one of the group's smoothest moments of wordplay:
Famine strikes your soul, Death looks over your shoulder.
A war going on inside no man is safe from,
A disease, you’ll die but first you feast
At the last supper I’ll separate the beat,
Then pass it around the table cuz my brothers gotta eat."
In just a few lines, they reference the four horsemen of the apocalypse, visit the last supper, and turn it all around to a political call.

After only one song, the Longshots are poised to be the second coming of KRS-One (yeah, it would take two people), but they get lost in their religious self-righteousness. Instead of using their faith to incite activism, they use it to incite hatred. In "The Sneak Attack," the duo drop the most homophobic rhymes this side of The 700 Club. Almost as bad (not really) is that it's artistically and logically weak. Rock Shabazz starts out comparing his rhymes to gay men who are "terrorizing" others (is this supposed to be good?), and then moves on to explain, "They sleepin' with other men, but I'm labeled a homophobic / Like I'm the one with the problem / Like I'm the one with the cock in him."

Ignoring the politics for a minute, let's just look at the content. First, the last two lines explain the first, but Rock Shabazz doesn't make any sense. He's trying to meet people with a different worldview on the terms of his own, making the word "problem" meaningless, and leading to a simile that essentially reads "I'm homophobic like a man who has sex with men." If you have to hate, at least do so artistically.

"Ready for War Pt 2" contains a string of rhymes-as-attack images. In this string of comparison, the Longshots manage to trivialize real violence (so much for their "conscious" concern for the streets) and idealize it at the same time, proud of their stereotypical masculinity. Bottom moment: "The Longshots set be the sickest next to AIDS." What makes the line so tasteless (besides the obvious) is that in other songs, the group seems to be concerned with the AIDS crisis, especially in the ghetto.

The constant reassertion of authenticity, along with the group's apparent cluelessness, actually establishes their act as a pose, rendering the truth of their background irrelevant. In their continuing use of traditional signifiers, they do no more to prove where they come from than what any hip-hop fan could do. And while they obsess over the situation around them, they seem to care little for the individual people in it. When Jay-Z forgives his father on "Moment of Clarity," he says more about the state of his culture in a few lines than the Longshots, for all their moral assertiveness, can say on a whole disc.

Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake
Reviewed on: 2005-12-01
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