Tack-Fu / Chained Reaction

Beats 4.5, Rhymes 3.5, Creativity 4

Overall: 4 (Dope)
... Two years ago Tack Fu released the groundbreaking Yen & Slang, the first professionally manufactured "Internet" hip hop album, and the forerunner to joints like DNA-lysis, Hostile Takeover, and Lifefirst. Though Tack's production was heralded by numerous websites and print publications, the emcees were unanimously panned as being lyrically atrocious. This time around, Tack is said to have carried a sharpened wooden stick into the studio with him, forcing a new crop of emcees to outperform those heard on his professional debut. The results: Even though Chained Reaction will not lyrically knock your head off, the improvement is monumental. But perhaps more importantly, Tack has also improved behind the boards, making this album significantly better than Yen in all areas.

While the production on Yen & Slang was excellent, the drum programming usually utilized looped breakbeats, with the focus being on the classical music samples that have since become a little played out. Not to worry, this time the emphasis is on groove construction; intricate drum programming and funky electronic samples where there were loops and violins on Yen.

The best example of Tack's sonic architecture can be heard on "Personality," featuring an emcee named Angle on the mic. This track is composed of a really nice bassline, crisp drums, and a shaker/ tambourine. All elements go in and out, breaking down, and then building back up again. Angle is strong on the mic, coming off even better on the very lyrical "My Poetry."

"Altar Beast" is another excellent track, this one featuring emcee Joe Juggla. Juggla sounds a lot like one of the members of Rubberoom, and both his flow and lyrics are entertaining. "Respect wack emcees like the LAPD and civil rights," "you couldn't beat me, if Mr. Fuji was your manager," and "you'll get your whole career dead, like a 1995 MC Shan replay, kid!" are some of his stand-out lines from this track. The production by Tack is once again excellent, this time using a bass guitar, and a layered dusty drum track. DJ Richie "12-inch" Heller provides some excellent turntable mechanics to this track as well.

But the album's best track is undoubtedly "Matter of Time," featuring under-underground phenom, Braille. This abstract track is undoubtedly the young emcee's finest performance to this point, as his flow is energetic, and his lyrics are very well-written and insightful. Cryptic lines like "I'm walking on the ceiling, logic is losing his mind," are just begging to be deciphered. Tack's production is also on the experimental side, with a rock guitar, unorthodox loops, and a hard-hitting drum track.

Overall, the emcees are much improved this time around-- lyrically, vocally, and creatively. But there is another dimension to Tack Fu's talent, which you undoubtedly realize if you are a proud owner of Yen & Slang: The DJ Shadow-style instrumental track. Last album featured a variety of excellent joints like "HFN," "Addicted to Lo-Fi," and the classic, "Swan Dive," and this album provides its share of sans-lyrics winners as well.

This time around, a lot of the instrumental joints focus on the spiritual. "Proverbs 5" is a Biblical warning against the proverbial (for real) skanless ho, "Spiral Accession" features what sounds like Arabic chanting over a subdued bassline and drum track, "Brimstoned Hymn" rides a scornful loop paired with Gregorian chants, and "Earl-e Morning (wake-up!)" begins with four minutes of audio footage from a Jerusalem documentary.

But just like last time, the best instrumental track is saved for last. This time, the "Outro" is not even credited, but Tack and his partner, The Chaircrusher, concoct a brilliant techno-influenced track featuring an other-worldly bassline, tight drums, and multiple layers of space-age ambiences. Dope!

In conclusion, Chained Reaction is a solid improvement on the highly enjoyable Yen & Slang. The emcees are worlds better, but Tack's production has greatly improved as well. With his first professional release, Tack established himself as one of the Internet underground's best producers. With this one, he has become one of the best underground producers, period.

--Best Cut: "Matter of Time"
--Jay Seagraves

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