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Wednesday, Jun 25 2003 | 18:48

taken from

“Escape from Alcatraz”, the highly anticipated album from Cali Agent #1. Production from Jake One, da Beatminerz and others. Performances from Charli2na, Planet Asia, Casual, Reks.

Rarely do rappers get better. After the first album, sometimes the second, the average MC’s career is over-an oft, insignificant footnote in hip-hop’s unforgiving history. In the case of Bay Area MC Rasco, his years honing skills, flow and lyrical versatility has not only resulted in his strongest album to date, but a memorable creation that will no doubt earn this veteran a newfound respect as one of rap’s most complete MCs.

With the release of Escape From Alcatraz, the raspy voiced wordsmith has done what most rappers work their whole careers for; a seminal album that effortlessly fuses highly personal, emotion-felt street verse with soulful, varied production.

“This is the first time I’ve felt really good about an album I’ve done. Like this is the best work I’ve ever actually created,” says Rasco, whose critically acclaimed solo LP, 1998’s Time Waits For No Man and follow-up, 2002’s Hostile Environment as well as work with fellow Cali Agent Planet Asia has made him a notable stalwart on California’s hip-hop stage.

Of course, it doesn’t take long to recognize the veracity of such a bold statement. Indeed with “Get Free,” on which Rasco furiously declares his freedom from his former label over a powerful classic soul riff, makes it clear that this MC has moved beyond the limits of underground rap music.

“My previous label wasn’t benefiting me and I didn’t feel like I could trust them as far as taking me to the next level,” Rasco explains. “That song and this album was about my unleashing myself. Like f*ck it. I’m going to go for what I feel and see what happens. The folks at Coup d’Etat know how to treat their artists and these are songs that they can use to take me to that level which truly fit my talents.”

To do this, Rasco enlisted the help of diverse producers such as New York legends Da Beatminerz, Seattle-based notable Jake One and newcomers Omen, Brisk and Kleph Dollaz, along with heavyweight lyricists like Chali2na (Jurassic 5), Casual and Planet Asia (“my favorite MC’s right now,” Rasco notes).

The results are stunning. Tracks like the Middle Eastern-inflected, club banger “Making U Move” (featuring Beantown brawler Reks & produced by Virginia Beach’s Kleph Dollaz), or the up-beat flute-driven “Put Your Hands Up” (produced by Jake One) proves that Rasco can make music that can as just easily rock a jiggy hot-spot as a smoke-filled backpack convention.

Lyrically, Rasco has also evolved, sometimes flipping his trademark, venomous battle raps for thoughtful, theme-driven poetics: Case-in-point; the pro-Black “You Got the Time” -over a high-pitched funk hook-on which Rasco urges young, black men to keep persevering during difficult times. “The youngest of five with one Brother /the only Father I ever had was my Mother,” he spits powerfully.

For Rasco’s true fans, the Bay Area-based rapper shows he can still rock mics with the best of them, trading lyrical spitfire with Chali2na on the bass-bouncing “The Sweet Science” and hurling off-cadence one-liners on Escape From Alcatraz’s first single, “We Get Live” over machine-gun speed guitar licks. “All I Wanna Be,” the album’s last track, features the emotionally-fraught vocals of En Vogue and Amel Larrieux backup singer Kisha Griffin, over a brooding, string progression; a surprising, even emotional Rasco admits he’s tired of not living up to his own expectations of what a grown man should be.

“I fight with those weaknesses all the time,” Rasco reflects. “I needed to touch on things that affect me, like how to be a better father to my daughter because my father wasn’t there for me.”

Indeed, this particular song is the perfect ending to what is truly a groundbreaking album– evidence of a gifted musician who has worked tirelessly and searched within himself to create an intensely personal work of art. Says Rasco: “Escape From Alcatraz is the album that finally shows people who I really am.” ‘Nuff said.

Breaking Out September 9 2003

Visit Rasco at

“Escape From Alcatraz” Tracklisting:

2.Get Free (ft. Shake da Mayor)
3.U Got The Time
4.The Sweet Science (ft. Charli2na)
5.Put Your Hands Up
7.My Life
8.Making U Move (ft. Reks)
9.We get Live
10.San Fran To The Town (ft. Casual)
11.Let’s Get Down Tonight
13.Snakes In The Grass (The Jon Sexton Story)
14.Endless (ft. Planet Asia)
15.Real Hot
16.All I Wanna Be (ft. Kisha Griffin)

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