Snowgoons - Black Snow 2 (Album Review) ✪✪✪✪1/2


    Snowgoons have always been a consistent production team, always elevating their sound, experimenting with new ideas, and perfecting their execution. This is their first group effort, solely under the "Snowgoons" brand since Snowgoons Dynasty last year. With a reliable catalogue... and carrying the torch from their critically acclaimed underground classic Black Snow in 2008, Black Snow 2 has the underground scene on its toes. 

As with any producer album it does become important to judge the men behind the boards equally, or more so than the ones on the mic... Snowgoons do seem to get hate for their one dimensional sound... Typically known for painting an intense epic landscape, one cannot deny that the sound is present on this album, however they do that sound right and only have further crafted their "signature" with steady improvement in these forefronts... Although that is not to say that the Snowgoons do not have variety, and this album speaks to that claim, more than any of the previous projects we have gotten from the German team. 

A track like Still Real and Raw for example with M-Dot, Jaysaun and Journalist 103 id s reminder of the track Rockstarz off of Journalist 103's solo from last year also produced by Snowgoons. A completely surprising beat to come from the group, sort of similar to a Preemo sound... however with a "heavier" feel, and it's own twist. The Code I would presume took influence from the Raekwon track Jury as it brings one back that feeling. Fast Food Nation sounds more mystic and mysterious than "epic". Almost sounding as if you are entering the pyramids of Egypt 2500 B.C. era, however with a concept lyrically that translates the beat into a story of uncovering the bullshit that goes on in the culture.

By the end, if you were to stick Snowgoons to one sound today, it's most definitely boom-bap over anything. With the group spreading their sound and branching into many different styles still under that boom-bap persona, the "epic" tag that goes along with the name really only describes a quarter of the album.

The album starts off incredibly strong with This is Goon Shit featuring N.B.S. (Natural Born Spitters) & Planet Asia. It features an instrumental that some may associate with Snowgoons, with that heavy orchestral chopped sampling, boom-bap, anthem shit, but elevated to amp up the listeners and bring the quality that we hoped for. N.B.S. have been extremely consistent delivering fire over the last year. Having been featured on a monster joint on the Sicknature album Nature of the Contaminated also hailing from the Snowgoons throne… To releasing their new album The Smokefest November 19th. Flash and Knuckles (N.B.S.) go back and forth on this track like they are on their M.O.P. tip, wilding out providing that same energy we got from the intro on their 2010 release Kraftwerk. Planet Asia delivers the last verse on the track in such an effortless and casual manner. Really taking control and power of the track, and leaving it to be one of the better cuts on the album, and one of the better cuts of the year.

Similarly tracks like Black Snow 2, True Hatred Part 2, Still Real and Raw, Dirty Goons and Reel Wolf Underground just to name a few have that "Anthem" type vibe. They have the orchestral sampling we know of the production team, they have that pure aggressive energy and feature some of the best emcees in the game, delivering some of their greatest performances to date. For example, Apathys verse on the title track is a strong contender for "Verse of the Year" with lines:

"Turn popes to coke heads, cause they broke bread with goat heads. Paranoid schizophrenics with no meds."
"I'm cold as Siberia. Flow is so superior. The smell of cigar stains Mercedes interior."
"I swore to my maker I'd never spit a wack flow. Or spend eternity in hell shoveling Black Snow." 

And you could argue the same for verses by Celph Titled, Journalist 103, Crooked I, Rakaa Iriscience, and surely many more off of the album. Lyrically superior in all angles... One knows to bring their best when appearing on a Snowgoons compilation, as the audience is large, and the beats are always on point... In the same ideology of Preemo, It's nice to see everyone a part of this project really maintain that philosophy, and bring their A-Game to the table... It shows, and it makes for one hell of an album.
It's not all gladiator shit and battle rhymes though... As with the original Black Snow album, the "Black Snow series" to date has held a substantial increase in conceptual tracks, compared to albums like German LugersSnowgoons DynastyKraftwerk and even the Banished from Home mixtape, we have here a much more reminiscent lot of content to the original classic. 

The song Suckaz Behind Screens with Edo G and Reks (Boston MCs) is a track about the much stereotyped "internet hater" and how these "internet thugs" hind behind their keyboard to voice their usually null and void and greatly (and pathetically) over-exaggerated opinions. With Reks delivering one of the better verses on the entire album, and one of the better verses I've heard from Reks probably since his 2011 effort R.E.K.S. (Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme). 

I Walk Alone the Cunninlynguists track on the album is about coping with the stress, and weight on your shoulders of everyday life. Contemplating relief methods, and therapeutic remedies; from drugs, to space (as the title implies "loneliness"), to focusing and prioritizing the more important things in life such as family... Maybe not the most unique concept we have heard, but neither is Suckaz Behind Screens but the point is their done well... And the emcees chosen to tackle these subjects are perfect fits in every visible circumstance.

You have on here Fast Food Nation by none other than Q-Unique bringing probably the most unique and noticeable concept tracks on the project, as he relates the state of Hip-Hop, the game, and the industry to fast food joints. It happens to be one of the more fun tracks on the album, strictly on a word-play level... but he manages to make extremely valid and interesting points, leaving it to be one of my favourite cuts, and clearly a stand-out on Black Snow 2. Even the cuts referencing fast food franchises, with Pos from De La Soul asking "Can I interest you in some burger and fries?" Just plays further into this concept. Look at some of these lines from Q-Unique though...

"The similarities are startlingly profound... When the industry and McDonalds share the face of a clown."
"The labels only signing for a toy in the happy meal."
"Supersizing you will feel like you're on the winning team. But be careful with the calories you won't be able to fit into your skinny jeans." 
"An army of clones and steel, but the chrome ain't real. You pop off at the Fast Food, I'll make a home cooked meal." 

The album closes with easily the most heart wrenching, and emotional track off of the project Dizzy Dreams, with the one and only Viro the Virus (Rest in Peace). For those a fan of the original Black Snow, Viro was on the track Starlight a main single that captured attention of heads everywhere... A truly remarkable emcee that never got to gather his destined fan base. It's a blessing to see Snowgoons carry on his candle. Having such a impact in his career during his life, it only makes sense. The track itself may not have the emotional factor without the realization of his passing, however it is still a clear stand out on the album, branching away from the "hard body hip-hop" for a moment, and capitalizing on the sincerity, and heart that the genre has to offer... No one does this better than Viro the Virus (Whom is in the same league to most as The Last Emperor) This entire track reminds me of the Aesop Rock quote off of his classic No Regrets track;

"Look, I ain't never had a dream in my life. Because a dream is something you wanna do but still haven't pursued... I knew what I wanted, and did it will I was done. So I've been the dream the dream that I've wanted to be since day 1."

A truly impactful quote, and Dizzy Dreams is able to capture that impact and expand on the idea. Realizing your dreams, and shifting the "dream" aspect of your goals into reality. 

There's definitely more to be mentioned on the conceptual tip. Masta Ace for example drops a gem on the bonus track "Benz Bema Dreams" another track that will remain with us for years down the line... Baffling how it ends up as a bonus cut, but surely we are all glad it exists to the public. The truth is, a Snowgoons project will always gather the attention of hard body hip-hop fans and rarely branch beyond that. However if you have dismissed their contribution to the culture in the past due to a one dimensional outlook, Black Snow 2 has proven once again that Snowgoons are capable of much more, and are able to execute flawlessly nearly any style they are presented with.  

If you were a fanof the first Black Snow, Black Snow 2 follows in the same limelight, matching a lot of the same formulas and templates used for the first project. Snowgoons as a team have expanded their sound over the years, they have mastered many different styles of production, and are able to use this to craft a better sound track to track than the first one... The only thing holding the original to a higher standard for people presumably is nostalgia, which I must admit I am guilty myself of to a degree.

From start to finish, track to track... We have banger after banger. Some of the best beats we have heard from the group, and some of the illest verses we will hear in the year. You have concepts and directions the album takes you that are unique, and surprising... clever, and fun. And enough heart on the project to bring you back to the original, but not venture off from what we want from Snowgoons. 

It's truly a great project, and for fans of this "type" of album, it will be one of your favourite projects of the year without question or doubt. 

- Alex Kuchma: The Underground Vault