Up-and-coming group, After the Smoke, make their debut with their new album, “Rap Music Sucks,” which dropped December 2006. The group is composed of five members: Speek, Whuzi, Carmen, Essay Real and Joey Plus. They classify their music as hip-hop mixed with soul. Essay Real, Joey Plus and Whuzi are the lyricists while Carmen is the Songstress. Speek takes the role of the producer. Rap Music Sucks consists of thirteen tracks, all produced by a member of the group. Ten out of the thirteen beats are original. Before actually listening to the CD, the expectation was of a cross between Outkast and Gnarls Barkley. But after going through each song, the outcome was more closely compared to Kanye West or Common. Although, they lack the certain charm that the two aforementioned artists have acquired, they are definitely on their way to making a mark in the music industry. Unfortunately this album, like their first mix tape, lacks a certain charisma needed to put them in a higher category of artistry. The opening track “Stop” which features Essay Real, has too many sound effects in the background. These random sounds distract the listener from the main message of the song: “think before you act.” The words in the chorus are hard to distinguish and the song seems to end a bit prematurely. The beat turns aggressive on the album’s next track, “Blow,” but yet again the track lacks clarity. At points you cannot understand what the artists are saying. The third track, “UFO” which stands for “Unidentified Funking Objects,” sounds like something that you would find on an Outkast CD. Unfortunately the music is too loud, which may be a studio malfunction, but nonetheless forces the listener to strain them self to hear what the artist has to say. “Dial Tone” which has one of the nicest beats on Rap Music Sucks, might be one of the best songs on the CD. The baseline is strong while giving off a mellow vibe. The ballad comes off as a joke love song since the artists repeatedly whines “pick up your phone.” “Check One, Truth” starts out with an old school flavor that sets the song off. The balance and tone of this song makes it another true hit on the CD. The lyrical style of After the Smoke is apparent in this song. “Hip Hop wasn’t an image it was a truth… hip hop was never that faithful… if pain is love then music really hurts.”
The sixth track, “Much More,” speaks of goals and dreaming big. Carmen, whose voice you hear for the first time, makes the track promising. “There’s more than you can see cause I’m trying to hold my own, even when the world turns on me. That’s my desire, straight to the top, can’t slow down now, gotta beat the clock. I need for me. That’s my desire.” The track, “Brand New Song,” brings a soft and chill atmosphere to the album. The song makes you feel like you are having a conversation with Whuzi who freestyles throughout the entire track. The laid back beat gives the track a neo-soul feel. Track eleven, Out of my System or OOMS, is where we finally hear Carmen’s sultry voice sings more than a chorus. This song, like track three, is hard to distinguish since the music is loud. But what Carmen puts forth in talent is drowned out by a mediocre beat. When the smoke clears, Rap Music Sucks overall is a decent CD. The beats, for the most part, are appealing, the message is necessary and the rhymes are good. But the album’s lack in production leaves the CD poor. Certain tracks need for the background music to be lowered while other tracks don’t need as many sound effects. If you are into experimental music, then Rap Music Sucks is for you. I however give this CD a C but definitely an A for effort. To hear the music, just visit MySpace and type in After the Smoke. There you can get a copy of the CD as well as find out how to contact the group.