Listen to and purchase AK-47 Ronin at ish1da.bandcamp.com It is also available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon Music.
What is evolution?
The dictionary defines evolution as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.
In the musical dimension of the multiverse, evolution has just been re-defined by AK-47 Ronin.
I reviewed Ish1da’s first album, Hood Hemingway, 2 years ago. I thought it had the makings of a classic album then, and I still consider it a classic now. An artist’s inspiration is always his most memorable album. THAT album is the weathered cornerstone that everyone walks past and nods, even though nobody is there.
Respect for the words that turned fans into lifetime friends. An adoration for the music that made you figure out what the logo for “repeat” looked like on your car radio.
But, eventually, an artist’s goal is to achieve growth. There will be some traditional Hip-Hop fans who won’t appreciate the motive of this album. This album will appeal to a much wider swath of fans than Hood Hemingway did. The production on this album is on point and updated to trends that we hear today. That’s why this album will appeal to today’s streamers.
AK-47 Ronin displays an evolved Ish1da. Well, given the theme of the album, maybe evolved isn’t the proper adjective to use.
AK-47 Ronin is illuminated by an ascended Ish1da.
Just in case you don’t understand what I mean by “AK-47 Ronin is illuminated”, let me put it into Nurban terms.
The first thing that’s obvious is that Ish1da and his team are ready for war. Listening to the intro, AK-47 Ronin, I could picture the squad in a smoky ’05 Impala, on the hunt for rappers who oppose this modern-day Otaku revolution. This track describes the expectation of the street samurai:
Born under a red sky, child of tha Ainu/
Your soldiers don’t respect you if they won’t die right beside you/
This track sets the tone for the album. This album showcases a man at the crossroads. Behind him, lies the traditional Hip-Hop loving community that raved over Hood Hemingway. Ahead of him, lies an unknown path. This path is full of rivals, both known and unknown. But, is Team Ish1da ready to wage a battle against the unknown? What about the clandestine rivals? As Ish1da says on “Tha Code”:
Bring the hate and Imma cleave it straight/
Susanoo to a fu—- snake/
You all fu—- fake, you wouldn’t bust a grape/
Live and die by the blade, I only trusted fate
For the most part, the features on this album are dope. However, I have to be honest. There were a couple of features that I felt were just “placeholders”, not because they weren’t quality artists, but because their lyrical content didn’t quite match the theme of the song.
But, my focus is on the overall value of the album and not a critique on a guest feature. One of the songs with guest features that really stood out to me was “Next” (feat. Nostic the Poet & AGenius) Nostic the Poet seems to be chasing a divine intervention, but at the same time speaking the thoughts of everyone trapped in this life of seemingly few choices:
I don’t wanna die though, who’s gonna watch my kids
My verses are hollow if I don’t practice what I spit
If my temporal decisions hurl me into the eternal
I’m aiming for the cross and hope I miss the inferno
Of course, Mega Ran gives us an expected barfest on Yojimbo (produced by RoboRob). He and Ish1da compliment each other well, which is a testimony to the versatility of both artists.
On another note, it seems as if Ish1da and The Epitome are 2 halves that make a whole whenever they are on a track together. This is no different on Yagyu Jubei feat Bun3 and The Epitome. They should make a joint album together at some point in the future!
The rest of the features that round out the album are: Amy, JaqKel, Jurel, the Deity, Mystic Elder Maikis, Mike C, Domineko, Zieg Amimura, EkajDaVerbal Miraje, Diggz Da Prophecy, Walter West, Kryciz, & Scott SK Miller
My favorite song on AK-47 Ronin is “Kofun”. There is only one way to describe this track: REAL AF (excuse my French):
If I die in here tonight it’s their truth to tell/
I stomped myself up in my neck and hung myself up in my cell/
It’s simple for you to sell, just be a safe white rapper/
I say f— tha police, black lives matter/
I hope Ish1da pushes this song as his next single. The production by Kora does an excellent job of setting a melancholy tone that makes you really pay attention to what’s being said. This song needs to be heard everywhere. Not only in urban environments, but also by our suburban counterparts who feel secure at night, like there’s not a real war going on a couple of miles from your safe abode.
Back to that evolution thing. I don’t know if he meant to this album to showcase the versatility of what some would call Nerdcore, but AK-47 Ronin did exactly that. There will be some Nerdcore fans who won’t understand or appreciate the “Nurbanism” that artists like Ish1da represent.
But, I truly hope every Nerdcore artist pushes this album as hard as they would their own. Why? Because AK-47 Ronin is one of the sub-genre’s albums that isn’t exclusively for a niche audience. Yes, I did receive a review copy. But, I’m also purchasing the album as soon as I post this review. I’m going to bang the hell out of it in front of all of my non-Anime loving, not-Nerdy-at-all homies. When they ask me, “Who is this,” I’m going to say, “Nerdcore & Otaku Artist Ish1da”.
Then, maybe they will want to hear YOUR Nerdcore album next.
Review Grade: B
Metrics (on a scale between 1 – 10)
Replay Value: 8
Total: 32.5 (81.2%)
The Breakdown: While AK-47 Ronin is a lyrical jewel, and the production was lit, I felt the quality of the mixes could have been better. Honestly, the quality isn’t bad, but there are some points on the album, most notably “7 Samurai” where it was apparent that different quality microphones were being used. I’m sure the engineer worked his magic, but the inequality is still apparent. And with the powerhouse features on that song, it should’ve had the potential to be in my top 3. The good news is, the quality wasn’t lacking so much that I couldn’t listen to it again. I felt as if I could put my favorite songs on repeat and just let it ride for the week. In fact, I did exactly that!
I honestly don’t think this grade is fair to the effort that Ish1da put into making this album. But, my goal is not to tear any artist down, but to give an honest critique that will be full of options for the artist to consider. I want to hear the perfect album. Then, I want to review it.
That would be the perfect day…
Check Out Ish1da ft Mega Ran – “Yojimbo” produced by RoboRob!