This album was released on January 31st this year. Dueling Experts is a newly formed duo comprised of Verbal Kent & Recognize Ali. I’m personally more familiar the former due to his work with Ugly Heroes, but I’ve recently listened to some solo work from both of them, and they’re definitely both good rappers. Recognize Ali is actually from Ghana, so that’s pretty cool. I don’t really listen to many African rappers aside from like Yugen Blakrok. I thought Sampa the Great was African for a while, but I think she’s actually Australian. I don’t know. Anyway, I think he’s more affiliated with guys like Planet Asia; he even did a full album with DirtyDiggs, which was pretty good. The only time I’ve ever heard Verbal Kent & Recognize Ali work together in the past was on a song called Cult Classic, which appeared on Kent’s album with Superior, Half My Life. It’s my favorite track from that album too, so I think I’m really gonna dig this project. Every song here is produced by an artist named Lord Beatjitzu. I’d never heard of him until reading about this project, but Kent described him as a “legendary lofi beat maker,” so I’m expecting the production to be dope. I also think Lord Beatjitzu is a cool ass name, so yeah. This was released under Mello Music Group, which is my favorite record label at the moment, so I think I’m gonna really fuck with this shit.
1. The Dueling Experts
On my first listen, I immediately saw where Verbal Kent was coming from with that “legendary lofi beat maker” comment because the production here is awesome. The way the track begins sounds like someone’s firing up an old school fighting game, and I was immediately hooked as soon as the soulful, yet gritty lofi beat dropped. I think Kent & Ali are really a great pair here; they sound really dope trading verses with each other. The first verse from Verbal Kent was really dope.
My savages are ravenous
Saw you into halves
I guess you really saw the half of this
You couldn’t have sought after this
Recognize Ali killed that second verse too.
I don’t really give a fuck, my attitude is celibate
You other rappers hella lame; I’m the realest, y’all hella fake
I’m like Tyson in his prime, y’all featherweight
Without a question, y’all ain’t got the answers like Calloway
The hook is pretty solid too. I don’t know why Verbal Kent sounds so good over this type of production to me, but maybe he should spit over instrumentals with this aesthetic more often. I really don’t have any gripes with this track. They both killed it, and I love the production. This shit is dope as hell.
The whole album has kind of a Wu-Tangish atmosphere, and this beat in particular sounds a lot like a classic RZA instrumental in my opinion. Verbal Kent even alluded to the iconic C.R.E.A.M. single from 36 Chambers in his opening verse. The first couple of verses were dope, but they both absolutely slaughtered the final two verses. Recognize Ali destroyed that shit.
I see this pussy’s tryna get rid of me
The epitome of victory, you rappers shit to me
Body any MC that wanna test me lyrically
Metaphysically I’m killin’ it, from Guinea to Italy
I’m a monster, spittin’ fire like somethin’ outta Contra
Not too many niggas fuckin’ with the God from Wakanda
Magic mantra, my shit is lit like ganja
Electric man, I be shockin’ ‘em like Blanka
Verbal Kent did his thing on the closing verse too.
What’s up with me is I’m about to punch your chest in
Take a couple steps back is my fuckin’ suggestion
I’m a bad man, scram in another direction
Shit, I even scare myself with my fuckin’ reflection
I personally think Ali stood out the most here though. Anyway, this is easily my favorite track on the album. I kinda wish the hook was better, but aside from that this shit is awesome.
3. Part of Life
Once again, the production here sounds very RZA-ish. The song is just under 130 seconds long, so the structure is very straightforward. It’s just two verses, one after another. The first verse from Kent is dope, and Ali of course did his thing as well; it contained a few more Wu references, so I think it’s safe to assume that they’re heavily influenced by them. The song is really just more of the same, but it’s certainly a very enjoyable track for me. By the way, get used to reading “more of the same” because this album is honestly just the same song repeated 14 times. Anyway, that line from Ali about eating the hearts of vampires and sucking their blood was hard as hell. This shit is dope.
4. Dark Ninjas
I really love how dark this beat sounds. It’s definitely one of the weirdest instrumentals on the album. The way they’re trading couplets is really dope too. The line Ali had about sipping Henny from a straw was funny to me. The last few bars from Kent were awesome too. This is definitely another highlight on the album for me. Once again, it’s really just more of the same in terms of the content, but the way they were trading violently aggressive couplets over this dark beat was awesome. This shit is dope as hell.
5. The Middle Finger
The beat here is really nice; it’s more melodic than the preceding few instrumentals, but it’s still very raw and gritty. The first verse from Kent is very good.
5’11” centipede, try surviving ten of me
Your head’ll be readily cracked, Delicate as celery
Blackbelt of a pedigree that’s never seen
End the dreams of any enemies that dare to play
Recognize Ali’s verse was nice, but I’ll admit that I kinda started getting tired of the beat by the time he was finished. Kent’s second verse was cool, and Ali did his thing at the end. I like the song, but it’s definitely the most boring track up to this point. Nothing about it is particularly bad, and I honestly loved the beat at first, but it just got old pretty quickly. There weren’t really any super quotable bars either. It’s still a good song though; I fuck with it.
6. The Art of Fighting Without Fighting
This track has one of the coolest beats on the project; once again, it’s super rough, rugged, soulful, Wu-Tang type shit. Verbal Kent did a great job with that first verse. The song feels more uptempo than the preceding track. Recognize Ali literally sounds like a missing Wu-Tang member on this song. His voice reminds me of Ghostface mixed with Raekwon. He killed this shit.
You niggas mini, I can see through your kundalini
Out in Guinea with a fly broad ridin’ a Lamborghini
Receive your blessings ‘cause god is in the city
I have cats meek with the milli like I’m from Philly
This shit is really dope. I kinda wish the song was a bit longer, but aside from that I don’t have any nitpicks.
7. Two Isn’t Enough
The production on this track doesn’t really stand out that much, but it’s definitely good. It’s just not any different from anything else on the album. Recognize Ali killed that first verse though.
Real rap, no gimmicks
Listen to these rappers, you can tell who they mimic
Not the beat, pay attention to the lyrics
Spit a sixteen and crush your whole spirit
The hook is nothing special, but it serves its purpose well enough. If I’m being completely honest, the second verse from Verbal Kent really didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t a bad verse, but it just kinda went in one ear and out the other. Overall, I think the song is good, but it’s mainly Recognize Ali’s performance that stood out to me. I still fuck with this shit though.
8. The Cause of My Ignorance
This track actually has a RZA vocal sample, just in case the Wu-Tang influence wasn’t obvious enough already. The beat is dope as hell though. The first verse from Verbal Kent was cool. Ali’s verse was better in my opinion, but I wouldn’t say it was amazing or anything. He definitely did a good job though. I’m mostly impressed by Lord Beatjitzu’s work on this song to be honest. The track is just two verses, one after another, so there’s not much going on here. It’s still pretty good though.
9. A Secret Document
The beat here is pretty good, but not super memorable. Verbal Kent did his thing on the first verse, but it’s not really anything to write home about. I did like the line about cutting a rapper with his own vinyl record though. That was cool. Once again, Ali had the more enjoyable performance to me. This song follows the exact same formula as the previous one; It’s a Wu-Tang type beat and two verses from Kent & Ali respectively with no hook. I definitely like the song, but it’s certainly not a standout track.
10. Arnold Palmer Sipping Arnold Palmers
The beat here is honestly pretty great. The first verse from Ali is dope, and the second verse from Kent was really nice too.
I choke the mic, hold the mic where I wanna
When I’m gone & dead many mini-me’s will rock the mic in my honor
Let me tell you what I like about karma…
I might not get what I deserve, but you will get what I don’t
That makes me calmer than Arnold Palmer sipping Arnold Palmers
I feel like I’m kind of torn on Verbal Kent as a rapper honestly. I think I generally like him, but every now and then he’ll just say something that seems really corny to me or leaves me scratching my head. It’s partly his voice and delivery too. I get the impression that he thinks he’s saying the slickest shit ever written, and it ends up being slightly embarrassing as a result. It’s usually not too bad of a problem though. Anyway, I fuck with this song; it’s not one of my favorites, but I definitely enjoy it to some extent.
11. Black Belt
The beat on this track is solid, but kinda forgettable to be honest. The first verse from Verbal Kent is actually pretty great though. He had a couple corny lines in there—the one about you being off balance like a surfing sumo wrestler comes to mind—but I guess I just like how aggressive he sounds here. Ali’s verse was cool too. I definitely like this track, but it’s really not that memorable because there isn’t much going on. At this point in the album, I was kinda ready to write my final thoughts because I already knew what to say. Shit, I was probably ready by the time I got to the halfway point, but I’ll explain that later. Anyway, I fuck with this song, but since it’s just a couple verses over an average beat there’s not much to get excited about. It’s cool though.
12. Stones in a Glass House
The beat on this track is pretty great. Recognize Ali actually killed that first verse too. That’s definitely one of the best verses on the album. Verbal Kent’s verse didn’t stand out as much because his flow seemed relatively tame. It was still solid though. I think this track is better than the previous few, although I still wouldn’t call it a highlight. Honestly, Kent’s verse kinda left something to be desired, but overall I still think this track is dope.
13. Baby Shark
This beat is solid, but not very memorable. The first verse from Verbal Kent is actually really good though. I like his hook a lot too. The second verse from also Ali is very good, but the song honestly just feels really short, even though it’s actually slightly longer than most of the others. Once again, it’s really just more of the same, so it doesn’t stand out quite as much. I think Verbal Kent shined here more than anyone else. The song is definitely enjoyable, but it’s not a highlight for me.
14. Your Fragile Limbs
I don’t really think the beat on this track is that great, but it’s certainly not bad. I think both of the MCs had some of their best performances on the whole album here though. I wasn’t that impressed by Ali’s first verse, but his second verse was fantastic. Kent’s rapping was more consistent in my opinion, so I’d probably say he had the better performance overall. They both did a really good job though. The repetitive beat got kind of annoying after a while, but as a whole I definitely fuck with this track; it’s dope.