Over the past 20+ years, I've often wondered why hip hop is so obsessed with low temperatures. Think about it...jewelry is referred to as ice, "cold" has consistently been used as an adjective in hip hop culture (i.e. "cold chillin'", "That's cold!" "Stone Cold Rhymin'"), and countless MCs have had names that alluded to refrigeration. Ice Cube, Ice T, Just Ice and of course, Vanilla Ice have all had names that alluded to cool, and maybe that's the point. After all, "cool" was used by jazz musicians in the 1940s to signify that something was hip, and hip hop took that concept to an extreme.
In that grand hip hop tradition, the MC known as Mr. Coldstone is set to drop his debut EP, 'The Unseen'. Now, I don't know if they have them where you live, but the name Coldstone makes me think of ice cream, as Coldstone Creamery is my favorite place to get a delicious banana milk shake. And, with a song titled "The Creamery" I suppose that the reference is pretty much there for the taking. After listening to this collection of songs a few times, I think that the name fits. Mr. Coldstone has a voice that is as smooth and rich as any milkshake I've ever had, and his flow has a variety of flavors that even Baskin Robbins would be jealous of.
'The Unseen' starts off with an intro that features a very cool Hammond B3 organ over a muted drum beat, and Mr. Coldstone kicking a single verse that provides a brief glimpse into his style of hip hop. Providing contrast to my ice cream metaphor, the intro is the perfect appetizer. It whets your appetite perfectly, and prepares you for what is to come throughout the rest of the EP.
The combination of production and vocals on this cd is excellent. There is a huge variety in the styles of the tracks, probably owing to the variety of producers, and Mr. Coldstone does each track justice. Despite boasting solid producers including Anthony "T.Bizzy" Williams II (aka Tonex), my personal favorite track is "My Hood." A very personal track about the difference between "The Hood," a place where people live, and "The Streets," a place where people tend to find trouble...or trouble finds them. Coldstone uses a deliberate flow, that borders at times on spoken word. This works really well with the Doc Watson produced track, which features a slower drum beat, funky bass line and very cool piano and guitar lines.
Another highlight of the disc is "Pump It Up" which features veterans Applejaxx and Bobby Bishop. That's not to say that Mr. Coldstone is a rookie. Even though this is his debut, according to his Myspace page, he's been around since the early 2000s, and met up with Applejaxx in '04. For "Pump It Up" Luke Witherspoon has created a somewhat minimalist track, featuring just drums, and several mechanical sound effects.
T. Bizzy and Nelly B. round out the producer line up on the disc, each bringing something interesting to the proceedings. As is the case more often than not in music today, the mixture of producers makes for a not very cohesive disc, but the overall quality of the tracks, and the fact that it's a fairly common situation these days, is enough to get past that.
As a lyricist and rapper, Mr. Coldstone is very good. He is capable of spitting in a variety of styles, and fits his flow to the track that he's given. He is capable of doing everything from a slow deliberate flow, which he does on "My Hood," to a tongue trippingly fast flow, which probably shown the best on the Intro. He is even capable of rapping in a faux-Jamaican accent as he does on the Outro. Lyrically, there is no question that this is Christian hip hop. Mr. Coldstone has no issue talking about the Savior, and I applaud him for it. He's not "preaching" per se, but he is certainly letting people know that Jesus is Lord, and is the answer to the questions in our life. The title also points to the faith that we have as Christians. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1
While the EP is really very good, there were a few minor problems, especially the length. In general, I find that it's hard to really get a feel for the quality of an artist's work with fewer than ten songs. In this particular case, with six songs, and an intro and outro for padding, I was really left with a desire for more. I wanted to hear more of what Mr. Coldstone had to say, and how he said it. I was also disappointed with the fidelity of some of the instrumentation. A lot of it was kind of muted and didn't really "hit", like the drums in the intro, and I really didn't "feel" a lot of the music. I love when the instruments on a track rattle my rib cage, which I didn't get here.
Overall, 'The Unseen' is a very good, if short, EP. It carries a mixture of styles and producers, but a coherent message, and a group of high quality tracks. I definitely recommend this debut, and am looking forward to good things from Mr. Coldstone in the future.
Purchase on iTunes or AmazonMP3
Label: Fadacy Music
Release Date: 6/8/10
1. The Intro
3. Deliver Us feat. Apple Jaxx and Cash Hollistah
4. The Creamery feat. Trini
5. Pump It Up feat. Apple Jaxx and Bobby Bishop
6. My Hood feat. Corey
7. Get Gone
8. The Outro