Thirteen tracks and two interludes worth of consciousness-lifting metaphors, party-rocking beats, and undiluted, 100% rebel music from one of hip-hop’s most slept-on duos. Rise Up emanates with an almost-punk rock attitude reminiscent of the early days of hip-hop, when Grandmaster Flash and the Clash could play the same bill and not raise eyebrows. If songs like “10 Steps Ahead” and “Play the Drum” make an extra effort to be original in a time of creatively-challenged rap, well, that’s by design. Azeem’s lyrical background-he’s a champion slam poet as well as a performance artist/playwright (“Rude Boy”)-comes through loud and clear on “Here Comes the Judge,” and on the first single, the ominously-titled “That Type of Music.” Never one to hold his tongue when there’s a deeper truth to unravel, Azeem “paints with no brushes or easels” on the funk-infused “One Moor Time,” and delves into soulful, jazz-tinged metaphysics on “Alpha Zeta.” He draws on his Caribbean ancestry over a rock steady-meets-SoulSonic Force groove on the title track (Rise Up) and flips even more West Indian cultural flavor on “Time to Wake Up,” alongside roots chanter Tony Moses and Quannum songbird Joyo Velarde.
Zeph, an in-demand club DJ who’s been active on the remix circuit for years, in addition to producing two solo albums (Sunset Scavenger and DJ Zeph, self titled), matches Azeem’s versatility beat-for-beat and track-for-track, showing why he’s the best-kept secret behind the boards since Diamond D. Old-school 808 bass drops, retro-funk, tasteful turntable cuts, dub-influenced treatments, African and Latin melodies, and loads of subtle musical elements make Rise Up well worth listening to, even if it wasn’t saying something that means something (which it is, in case you were wondering). Though Zeph and Azeem have been working together since 2001’s #1 college radio hit “Rubber/Glue,” they have had their share of highs & lows in the music industry. They’re confident that not only is Rise Up their best work to date, but the one which will finally clue the rest of the world to the fact that they’re doper than the 1st and 15th of the month.