Sometimes the greatest discs are the ones you least expect. Water Street doesn't even look like a rap album — had I not thought Sweatshop Union a sweet name, I'd have kicked this to my indie-rock pile, where it would have gone unheard. Instead, I popped in this 23-track Vancouver boom-bap masterstroke.
Even with the plummeting economy, few hip-hop acts capture the perpetual struggle just to eat that all, but few of us endure. But on "So Tired" and "Oh My," Sweatshop's seven scribes revive poor man's rap with poignant proletariat laments and giant hooks that should appeal to more than just socio-economic war mongers ("I make money — money don't make me").
I'm not sure where their deliciously sullen strung-out beats come from, but this is the degree of quality that results when large groups get democratic. Complete with equal parts excitement, emotion, and honesty, Sweatshop's "Johnny Cash meets B.B. King" raps should inspire anybody outside the top tax bracket to warm up to the largely slept-on blue-collar strand of contemporary hip-hop. There are times when you just have to take a critic's word for it, and this is one of them.