Armada The Producer – Last Of The Assassins – Album Review
Ye olde ominous “Intro” starts out Last Of The Assassins by Armada The Producer – heck, it’s practically threatening ya with the way it begins, introducing the menacing vibes that’ll run through the core of this record. Hopefully by this point, you’ve had a chance to check out the latest episode of the SBS Podcast – if everything has gone according to plan, we’d have cranked out that new show prior to the release of this review here, so you could have the opportunity to have a listen for yourself to a double-dose of what Armada The Producer brings to the table, the crew he’s brought along with him, and then of course, learn a lil’ more here in this review to follow up! That being said, if you haven’t had a listen to the show yet – no worries – it’s out & archived on the net permanently – click here to check it out y’all.
The lineup of verifiable all-stars you’ll find running throughout this record is staggering – and you’ll find them starting to show up instantly on Last Of The Assassins, starting with “Symphony Of Assassins” featuring A-F-R-O, DoomzDay The Headless Horseman, J Nolan, Rebellion, Street Costello, and the infamous Nekro G in the mix. And with Armada on the beat? We’re all set with everything we need homies. “Symphony Of Assassins” is actually the longest cut on the record weighing-in at a solid 4:21 – but I mean…you just looked at that lineup of talent y’all – they need that extra space to throw them verbal elbows around and make room for it all! Believe me…once you hear it for yourself, you’ll be fully stoked to find you get MORE of it – as they pass the mic and flex their skills, the selection of emcees proves to be a powerful force combined, flawlessly trading off the vocals and keeping the energy up the whole time – every single syllable you’ll hear is loaded up with maximum personality & supreme swagger. Beat-wise, you’ll hear Armada crushin’ it right from the drop of this first full-length cut, heightenin’ the drama through the strings & true beef in the low-end’s presence – they hit this opening track with pure fire from the lefts to the rights collectively, revealing how The Producer don’t JUST have talent on his own individually – he’s also surrounded by it & a whole crew of next-level emcees. Tracks like this almost can’t help but stand out…there’s so much personality, true grit, charisma, and style for audible miles that you gotta give it up for Armada The Producer & salute the way he sets this record off. Like I always tell ya – it’s about finding the right elements to suit the song – in this case, it’s the high caliber selection of vocal talent added in…Armada couldn’t have asked for anything more than what he got out of each & every one of these emcees – for real, it’ll blow you away how seamless & professional a track like “Symphony Of Assassins” truly IS & how this whole crew brought nothing but their A-game.
Look. If you listened to our podcast earlier on this morning, you heard about the many reasons WHY Armada has been thriving so hard – the man’s a mogul – that’s facts. Much of what I told ya is info you can find out there online – you can visibly SEE just how much The Producer has been dominatin’ the game – but even if you couldn’t, I promise ya, you can HEAR IT. Listen to the way he throws it down with Timbo King and Inspectah Deck on “Battle Scars” – it’s that perfect combination of lively upbeat sound & gritty, hard hitting bars built of lyrical steel & rock solid hooks. I’ll put it to ya this way – I heard “Battle Scars” for the first time myself, and I instantly started to cycle through the hundreds if not thousands of real Rap & Hip-Hop fans I’ve met personally that would dig on what ATP & his crew bring to this record. Last Of The Assassins has it ALL & that’s just the reality of the situation, straight-up – a track like “Battle Scars” reveals the full slickness & smooth fluidity of the flow in this combination of talent from the music to the mic, and how each element inspires the other to reach its max potential. Rather than sounding like a game of one-upmanship though, you get the balance you really WANT to hear, where the music is essential to the vocals & vice versa – both main elements complement each other, and as a result, you get the best of the best in the final results, you following me? Timbo King & Inspectah Deck are feelin’ this beat from Armada, and the quality they all come out with, 100% proves it. “I smoke your whole A-list” – as they’ll tell ya…and I’d assume that’s the truth because my ears work and I can HEAR that – but they must be smokin’ something GOOD over there, because this SOUNDS like the A-list to me! There’s no touching the cutting edge material you find infused into the core of this record.
Wait…what the HELL just happened?
Alright…I’ll explain. You get to about two-minutes into “Shadows” featuring K-Quick, Nekro G, and Rebellion…and prepare for what’s left of your mind to be blown – you simply haven’t heard rappin’ that fast before – that’s what’s real. “Shadows” was already wildly entertaining to start with, heading right into the dank & the dark where you’d expect to find an artist like Nekro G thriving, which of course, he does. You’ll hear what I’m saying though…you flow hard with this cut as it plays with its malevolent vibe and killer mix on the beat provided by ATP – and once again, it’s all about finding that right combination of talent to bring the vision to fruition, no matter how dark, murky & mischievous it all may truly be; and you just can’t argue with the all-stars you’ll find firing off on the mic throughout this cut. Clearly at the top of their game, this whole crew combined brings nothing but serious professionalism and straight-up gripping sound – “Shadows” is the kind of cut you can feel crawl right under your skin with the textures and tones you’ll find – the sensory vibes of The Producer run deep into the roots of the underground & come up to the surface of your speakers with force, precision, and passion you couldn’t possibly ignore. From the charisma you’ll find in the featured guests sharing the mic, to the vivid imagery of their words coming to life through the menacing tones of their voices, to the shifting speeds of these emcees going from chilled-out & controlled, to ripping rhymes so fast it’ll make your fuckin’ head spin like Beetlejuice – “Shadows” is nothing BUT spectacular performances and wicked vibes combined, bar for bar, beat for beat. These tracks all stick with ya for sure – but a cut like “Shadows” will cling straight to your bones.
I know what you’re thinking if you’re reading this. You’re thinkin’ something like, “Jer @ SBS – this can’t REALLY be as good as you’re claiming it is, right?” You’ve read my shit – you know I’ve got no reason to rub nuts or pump tires – I just call things like I hear it y’all, and you know it. The reality is, by the time you reach a track like “Combat Ready” featuring Canibus, Chino XL, and D.V. Alias Khryst – your ears are probably already screamin’ atcha about how they’re clearly listening to what’s obviously one of the best records in Rap that you’re gonna hear in 2021 without question. If you tuned into the SBS Podcast earlier on today, you’d have heard this very cut comin’ atcha through the set-list – we dove into the middle of Last Of The Assassins in a double-shot, and “Combat Ready” felt like the perfect introduction & gateway into what Armada The Producer has laid out on this record. But again – you’ve read this review to this point so far – it’s plenty clear that no matter what cuts we’d have chosen, ATP & his crew was gonna leave a lasting impression on ya, if not full-on permanent scars simply from surviving the experience! Did they just threaten to “beat you with a King James version of the bible?” I think they very well might have! I don’t know half as much as I probably should about the different versions of the good book out there, but I mean…I ain’t never seen a THIN bible yo, so I’m assuming it’s heavy & y’all should duck and GTFO the way! Listen to the key aspects of what you hear though – there’s real art here beyond the aggression too – the incredible details that ATP puts into his production…this track fires right outta your speakers. Explosive performances to say the least – “Combat Ready” is fully armed, stocked, and loaded with LARGE personalities, precision rhymes, and production that is second to none – they’re crushin’ it. If this is Armada & his crew shootin’ their shot – believe me when I say, they don’t miss; “Combat Ready” feels like you’ve just entered verbal warfare, with ace lyrical gunners at the ready to win the war against weak rappers that don’t bring substance, technique, or real passion to the craft.
Believe me…with the level of talent that The Producer rolls with, the last thing the guy needs is some kind of confirmation from a hack like me – the sheer fact that he’s got so many skilled artists surrounding his music & career should tell ya everything you need to know. If you tuned into the SBS Podcast, you heard “Out For Blood” featuring Kali Ranks & Onyx as the second-half of the double-shot – because THIS record…is worth celebratin’ & spinnin’ a lot more than the rest of what’s out there y’all, full-stop. I grew up with Onyx…if it wasn’t for them, I’d probably have stuck to my tapes by the Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff for the rest of time – that’s the specific crew that expanded my mind when it came to the realm of Rap music, and they’ve never left my playlists ever since. “How’s the volume now?” Kali will ask ya – and to which I respond, it’s fuckin’ GREAT yo! “Out For Blood” features that next-level intensity you love from the Onyx vibe, stellar hooks from Ranks that give additional depth & dimension to the entire direction of the track – I mean…there just ain’t nothing for you not to love here, 100%. The beat is stronger than steel, the whole crew on the mic keeps the energy firing on all cylinders from the lead to the background hype – “Out For Blood” is every bit as wild, raw, and intense as you’d hope it’d be. I’ll put it to ya this way…there are songs & records that come my way every day that I have to really examine & figure out what it is you’d connect with – and when it comes to the bulletproof material you’ll find on Last Of The Assassins, I feel like I don’t need to say a damn word – this entirely sells itself. As in your face as Onyx is synonymous with being, “Out For Blood” rages right outta your speakers with zero fucks given, no apologies, and the resounding confidence of real professionals flexing their verbal best – don’t get me wrong, clearly my allegiances to the Onyx crew has been made plenty clear here, but the reality is also that this particular cut would still qualify as one of the record’s best either way. Which at this point, as I’m sure you can tell – that’s actually saying a hell of a lot really – this album slays.
Enlisting the talents of Dom Pachino, Solomon Childs, and Timbo King for a second appearance – the vibe of “Guillotine Blade” lightens-up in the style & sound of the song produced by ATP, but I can fully confirms the rhymes you’ll find still hit as hard as ever. “Any challenge is senseless” – and that’s the truth y’all – this whole collaboration of talent has proven to be as unified as you could possibly conceive, and everyone contributing to Armada’s new record made sure there wasn’t a solitary second where anyone would be able to identify some kind of weak point. Ultimately, it’s fair to say that the way the vibe of “Guillotine Blade” sounds does diversify the record in ways other tracks don’t – but let’s be real here – ATP has put together a slice of audible slickness that slides right outta your speakers & stands out for all the right reasons. I’m not sure if that’s a banjo-led sample or not…I suspect it is…which in itself, would be pretty much unheard of & completely unexpected when it comes to the world of Rap – but your ears don’t lie y’all…you’ll hear “Guillotine Blade” and how addictive this vibe is instantly, and remain hooked in for the rest no problemo. “It’s time to elevate…the men from the boys, we will separate” – lemme put it to ya this way folks – they deliver on that promise with “pure excellence” beaming out from the lefts to the rights. It’s a shorter cut on this record, but it’s got max value for your ears and a vibe that’s upbeat & guaranteed to bring people in to listen to the grounded wisdom in the lyricism & stylistic flow of Pachino, Childs, and King rockin’ the mic with relentlessly rhythmic precision.
There are MANY advantages to what I do over here in being a critic…journalist…music reviewer…whatever it is you wanna call me – and one of those benefits is that sometimes, just sometimes…I get to hear a few things that y’all don’t. For you see dear readers, dear friends…I’m jammin’ these files directly…and on MY copy of Last Of The Assassins, I’ve got “Combat Ready (Part 2)” – which from what I can see, extends my lineup of tracks to twelve, as opposed to the eleven you’ll find on the page at Spotify. I mean…far be it from me to rub it in of course…but like…you’re all missing out right now, sorry-not-sorry. I’d love to say it’s not all about ME here in a situation like this, but it genuinely IS…as long as I can get my ears around the new music that’s out there, I kinda just assume the rest of you can fend for yourselves somehow. With Canibus & Kali Ranks in the mix leading the way, “Combat Ready (Part 2)” might not quite reach the extreme heights, tension, and intensity of part one – but that’s the most you’ll find me conceding to ya. For myself personally, this lineup has always had this cut in it right where it is, and it’s every bit as essential to Last Of The Assassins as any of the rest in my opinion. I dig that Armada is able to create hybrid cuts with diverse personalities in the mix like you’ll find in the combination of gritty rhymes from Canibus and the Reggaeton-inspired vibes of Kali Ranks in one dose – “Combat Ready (Part 2)” confirms this crew STAYS ready, keepin’ it frosty with ice-cold bars and fired up with hot hooks radiating outta the microphone & music surrounding, continuing to innovate this set-list.
Again, the lineup I’ve got here might differ from the one you find out there online, but this is the order I got this album in, and it’s the one that worked for me – I’ve got no reason to switch it up now! On the page at Spotify, you’ll find “Nothing Safe” appearing earlier on in the set-list right about here – on my copy it comes at the end, and we keep rockin’ with “Legacy” featuring Chris Rivers & K-Quick on the mic. Absolutely wicked hooks, swagger, and finesse from Chris Rivers as the cut begins…incredible editing & layers of his vocals in the design of mix enhance it all even more via ATP’s smart spin on the production – and then as far as K-Quick is concerned…I mean…how does this guy NOT steal the show everywhere he goes & every track he ends up on? This dude is a straight up superstar – and even on a record like this, filled absolutely wall-to-wall with incredible talent & legendary names – K-Quick almost can’t help but stand out for all the right reasons. Don’t get me wrong – speed is an impressive thing on its own – but it’s also kind of like Giannis running through the lane, and would be a little one-note if that’s ALL it was – the facts are that, even though K-Quick can blaze through the bars with speed as lightning fast as the freakin’ Flash, he still somehow finds the time to add melody, tone, precision, and passion you can hear. He’s got every bit as much swagger & style as anyone else you’ll find on this record, he just happens to deliver it at ten-times the speed…I can’t imagine anyone out there hearing what K’s been capable of on cuts like “Legacy” and “Shadows” earlier on and not basically dropping their jaws in awe. Much credit to the man behind the music, ATP has set every emcee on this record up for a decisive victory – and every single one of them has marched in, held their own with confidence, and raised the stakes in their own significant way. “This ain’t the shit you fuck to – this is the shit they fuck you up to” might also go down as one of the most brilliant opening lines you’ll hear in any cut this year – Rivers lays down a thick lyrical sauce & K-Quick stirs it up to perfection afterwards…”Legacy” is an undeniable gem.
The searing vibes of menace & mayhem come alive on “Night Terrors” with Rebellion holdin’ it down on the m-i-c with confidence, swagger, and style – “it’s business, no playdate” – you feel me? The rhythm & flow is flawless, movin’ precisely in tandem with the beat, pivoting, shifting, and transitioning between the bars & the hooks with ease & a seamlessly fluid design. Another highlight for what ATP does as well, “Night Terrors” has real texture to the sound that you can feel…that one main line of like…I mean…I guess it’s a twisted-up guitar sample of some sort? I don’t know what the chef’s got in the sauce here for sure, I just know it’s real tasty y’all – Armada The Producer puts together a killer vibe for Rebellion to make the magic happen, and together they dig right into the dark here. Sounds like there’s more than one emcee in the mix here as well…not sure what that’s all about, I’m just seeing the one name in the credits here along with ATP…so if it IS all Rebellion, credit to the man for remarkable versatility that almost sounds like entirely separate personalities – and if it ain’t, get those credits in-line Armada…because that closing set of bars raises the stakes into a brilliant finale that finishes of “Night Terrors” on a real highlight. Smart structures in these cuts, and artists that all know when & where to make their moves – Rebellion has no problem at all flexing serious style as he hits the rhythm & flow on “Night Terrors,” and lyrically, you gotta dig on the amount of vivid imagery that comes to mind as you listen. Arguably it might be a bit more on the mellow & chill side of what you’ll find on this record by comparison…at least for the vast majority of this cut…usually that results in a bit more resistance on the listening-end of things, but I suspect this dank track will have no problem at all finding ears to absorb it.
Featuring Heaven Razah & Hell Razah on “Genocide (Outro)” – tracks like this are important, poetic, and genuinely as observant as they are artistic – Armada The Producer & his crew put forth real perspective through music & have with all the tracks on this record for that matter, but within more of a Spoken Word style design fueling this particular cut, you get to the words that much quicker & they hit home that much faster. Welcome to the church of WISDOM y’all – listen UP will ya? “Genocide (Outro)” ain’t gonna be the easiest track you’ll hear on this record – but that’s completely intentional – you’re supposed to THINK, consider, and pay attention to these powerful words…which will go on to take on all kinds of societal flaws and systemic injustices, racism, police brutality, inequality, religion…and rightly so. Heaven & Hell Razah deliver a barrage of thought-provoking lyrics in a non-stop flow, while you’ve got bombs, gunfire & sirens goin’ off in the background…planes flyin’ overheard & such – I’m all about tracks like this personally…this is real art in action, and lyrics built to create awareness through passion & knowledge combined. “Genocide (Outro)” makes its many points about the scorched earth we’re livin’ on and the many ways we’ve fucked so much of it up, both through the words, and through the relentless intensity that shapes its background…this track is effective AF, and an experience you’ll never forget; and if that isn’t the true purpose behind making a cut like this to begin with, what else could be? I get why you’d find that as the last track in the official version of this record online – it’s conclusive as hell, and the weight of “Genocide (Outro)” carries that real finale vibe to it…the switch in between the two versions we’re talking about here, the one online & the one I’ve got, makes plenty of sense to me.
With Rebellion leading the way on “Nothing Safe” – I had my chance to catch my breath a bit after the pure intensity of “Genocide (Outro)” – don’t get it twisted y’all, that track will pretty much take you over. Hooks come out quickly before breakin’ way to reveal the rhythm & flow of Rebellion doin’ his thang – “Nothing Safe” is another solid combination of dramatic strings & a crisp beat, setting the stage for this emcee to feel the groove & infuse the energy of his rhymes symbiotically with the music around him. Thinkin’ there’s more than one artist in the mix here as well once again…but all I’ve got are the credits I’ve got…my ears are good, but I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I hear a whole lot of things throughout these days I’ve spent here…but yeah…I’m pretty sure that’s more than one personality on the m-i-c at the very least. I AM getting old though, so don’t just trust me like you used to. Bottom line is, “Nothing Safe” would fit in the perfect spot in the official lineup online for Last Of The Assassins…here at the end on the version I’ve got, probably a bit more of an awkward fit, but that’s obviously not on Armada – I’m stoked I’ve got one extra cut overall – I’d listen to this dude & the talented crew he’s got ridin’ with him all damn day. Last Of The Assassins is bulletproof, start to finish.
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