Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The sound of New York, revisited

Nowadays it seems like all you need to get a hefty contract is one or two hot guest verses. Consider the unfortunate plight of Brooklyn rapper A.Z., whose brilliant arrival on the rap scene was overshadowed by the even more brilliant arrival of his friend Nas. Nearly 11 years after the jaw-dropping toughness of his debut verse on Nas '"Life's a Bitch," A.Z. still hammers away with the same brusque yet penitent style that's powered him through a slew of near-hits, label dramas and missed opportunities. His latest album is an excellent return to basics — just listen to the self-descriptive standout "Never Change." Ghostface and Raekwon show up for the back-when-Times-Square-was-scary, Wild Style-riffing anthem "New York," while the rock-hard boast-fest "A.Z.'s Chillin'" updates Audio Two's "Top Billing." And to all those old fogy curmudgeons nostalgic for the days when hip-hop only had two coasts: it's probably the most New York record you've heard in years.