And suddenly it dawned on me: if rappers didn't hastily release every track they record, there would be a lot fewer shitty hip-hop discs and a lot more crown victories like Rakaa's solo debut. The components here could have been used as a dozen bangers on that many mixtapes, or as a concentrated cauldron of vast conceptual abilities, but the always reliable and often slept-on West Coast stalwart prudently chose the latter.
I feel the pain of anyone who might be saying, "I always liked Dilated Peoples, but I can't see myself getting into a whole Rakaa project." I had similar thoughts before diving into the dramatically strung-out "Observatory" with Mad Lion, and feel-good Babu beat stabs like "C.T.D." A couple of dud throwbacks briefly interrupt, but otherwise Rakaa has painted the sort of edgeless canvas that even the most eclectic acts are scared to make these days.
In a thoughtfully sequenced hour, our protagonist finds love, loses it, builds his ego, bruises it, meets hip-hop, and influences it. Team player that he is, Rakaa also taps some brethren for production and posse cuts, but for lack of the appropriate metaphor, Crown of Thorns is his cross to bear.