Heretofore, the lovely state of North Carolina only had a handful of musical marks; namely the pop-iconic Petey Pablo [whose two Jive Records releases—Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry (2003) and Still Writing In My Diary (2004)] offered radio friendly singles alongside some next-level music that most folks never got to hear, and Little Brother—the critically acclaimed trio from down South whose record sales have rarely matched their industry buzz, especially considering that their resident deejay/producer is none other than the prolific 9th Wonder (Jay Z, Destinys Child).
Well, Cesar Comanche, a founding member of the famed Justus League (alongside Little Brother), is here to change all of that. With his third album Squirrel and the Aces, a tribute to his father’s early seventies band of the same name, Comanche offers up “a celebration of the musician/entertainer.” With production by 9th Wonder, Justus League member Khrysis, and Nicolay (of Foreign Exchange), the music is on point. Offering a more summer-related, smooth and musical sound to tracks like “The Life,” featuring Phonte & Darien Brockington, “The Grind,” with Supastition, and an ode to the better half “Miss You,” where Comanche and Edgar Allen Floe wax poetic about the strong women in their lives. An honest and, unfortunately, novel idea in this day of misogynistic rap tunes. But then, the whole idea behind this album is to offer up a new window into the Dirty,Dirty that you might have been missing if you weren’t paying attention. Gone are the 808 booms. In their place, smoothness and harmony.
Because Cesar considers this a collaboration album (in the same vein as Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor series), there are plenty of other guest spots, including members of the Justus League, both the MCs from Little Brother, and Tajai (Souls of Mishief). The tracks sound more East Coast than not, replete with more treble than bass, and are intent on emphasizing lyrical dexterity, than hooks.
If you wanted to question Comanche’s pedigree, you should know he’s already garnered rave reviews from none other than DJ Premier: “Finally beats and rhymes on a record without all that phony rappin’ shit!!” If you are a member of the hip hop culture or a fan of true rap music, you’ll want to include this album in your collection.”