Coolzey :: Coolzey and the Search for the Hip Hop Hearts :: Public School Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Hip Hop Hearts] RapReviews was courteously provided an advance copy of Coolzey's new album "Coolzey and the Search for the Hip Hop Hearts" almost a full month before the official release date. Some people will surely attribute that fact to our running his album's press release. In truth getting a press copy was almost a certainty since we've been reviewing him since 2007, and this will be the fifth Coolzey project we've covered. It would be fair to say Coolzey has a cult following, to have survived this long as an independent artist out there on the grind, chasing his passion for hip-hop from the Midwest to the world at large. It would also be fair to say that cult following, however passionate, is small. The very fact Coolzey sent out a press release for syndication this time is indicative of the fact he's tired of working hard and going double wood. Good for him. DIY hustle and work ethic as an independent artist makes all the difference in the world. If you don't grind, you didn't really want it.

"My God, I wish I cared about what you were saying
Constantly caught up in your little dramas, bobbing and swaying
Like a leaky lifeboat, way out in the Pacific
Yeah you spray lots of shit; but I wouldn't call having diarrhea prolific"

If you're new to Coolzey, the first thing that smacks you about him on "Hip Hop Hearts" is the thought he puts into his verbiage. It almost goes without saying that most non-mainstream rappers put more thought into their rhymes than their radio counterparts, but even among the underground he seems to be more than just par for the course. Both "Ten W.A." and "MPC plus MIC" exemplify the fact that Coolzey is about his craft. He's definitely on the lower end of the octave range, although you wouldn't mistake him for Barry White or Isaac Hayes any time soon. There's not much of an accent to his flow either. That's not to say the Midwest doesn't have an accent (just listen to any parody of how people from Minneapolis or Chicago talk), just that Coolzey's voice is distinctive without one. He uses breath control and his slightly gruff voice to string together appealing and interesting phrases. On rare occasions he borders on indie rapper cliche but for the most part his raps turn out okay:

"Feelin my oats like Quaker, cake baker
Fuck the U.S. tryin to invade Jamaica
Stake a little claim on the mic device
I'm so nice they wanna double the price
They wanna cover the spice, come on I'm throwin the dice
Because I'm on a roll like kelp, fish and rice"

+1 for a sushi metaphor in your bars Coolzey. +1 for the concept of "Hip Hop Hearts" as well, which is described as being "12-12-12" on the whole: 12 tracks, 12 producers, and 12 videos to support the 12 songs. Ambitious? ONLY A LITTLE. The aforementioned tracks were produced by Copywrite and Woodstock respectively, and both did their thang on the beat. Other winners include the plucky and humorous "No Solicitations" by Tack Fu (where's he been anyway), the hard grinding boom bap of "Life Is a Wheel" by J. Rawls, and the intentional tribute to the 1980's hip-hop style shown by Dr. Dawn Dre Awesome on "Keef."

The unfortunate side of being so diverse in sound approach is that Coolzey is unable to create a cohesive sound, and you can't find the "Heart" at the heart of his album. Some songs just don't do it, including (no joke) "Do," which sounds like Coolzey is trying to force himself into a jazzy Digable Planet state of mind. This is still vastly superior to the perplexing wall of noise that The Rhombus provides on "No Reply," which he morphs into something straight out of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, until the whole thing devolves into an arthouse mess taking the worst of an El-Producto approach instead of borrowing the best. In the end Coolzey is to be applauded for taking chances, hustling to get his name out, and grinding hard to succeed in the underground. "Hip Hop Hearts" is more hit than miss, but could have been better if a few producers had gotten a second bite of the apple instead of being one and done.

Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: March 8th, 2011