(New Dawn Records, out Fri 17 May 2019)
New Dawn Records are relaunching their label with four EPs as a showcase. Sapientia by Underground Cartel is the second of these and exhibits a wide array of talent. From the mind of producer Kruze, Underground Cartel is a multinational hip-hop collective that features artists from the US, UK, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia and Germany.
The talent pool is by far the strongest aspect of the EP. For some listeners this will be their introduction to a number of the rappers featured, especially in the UK. This isn’t to say those featured in the Underground Cartel are new to the game. Kruze has assembled some great artists to work together like Yukonn MC, Swiss Precise and Marya on the track U Owe It 2 Yourself. That’s Boston, Long Beach and Italy together on a jazzy beat that echoes songs from the 90s East Coast rap scene.
Togetherness is prevalent throughout. New Testament does the same and features both male and female verses. Lockness from NYC works with Memphis Bleek and the German Grizu. Much dirtier than the laid back feeling of the previous track, New Testament is tough and doesn’t care if you can’t keep with the fast multilingual lyrics. The collection of artists here truly can’t be celebrated enough. Hip-hop collectives have existed for decades but rarely do they encompass so much.
Unfortunately Sapientia is far from perfect. The main weakness is the producing, which is a giant shame given that Underground Cartel is Kruze’s brainchild. The two tracks previously mentioned are standouts but the opening three tracks have some of the most generic beats since the early 2000s. Again, it’s a shame because the artists all work well with the backing they’re given and splitting the verses up amongst so many different nationalities makes this EP incredibly interesting. But more than half the tracks have beats that sound at best like DVD menu music and at worst a ringtone.
The final two tracks are also a fairly substantial departure from the established tone. Both tracks are more R&B than hip-hop and while pleasant enough, don’t feel like they fit. Listeners may think their shuffle is on all of a sudden. That said it’s still good R&B.
Sapientia is an incredibly interesting EP. While the production may be far from stellar, the sheer ambition on showcase make this 30 minutes well worth listening to.