In 2008, they released the "Live Hard" EP on CD and limited vinyl; a release tha was nothing short of a masterpiece, both from a production and lyrical standpoint. Four years later, they are countinuing where they left off with that EP, as they are working on "Mugshot Music"; their first proper album since 1995's "Good Fellas" or arguably 2002's "Full Scale LP" (which was an extension of the classic '98 five track EP, beefed up with various other 12" singles released during the same time). "Mugshot Music" was announced in 2011, and soon after a load of impressive leaks started hitting the net one after another. Tracks like "South Bronx Shit", "Show & A" and "Suspended Animation" proved that the Bronx bombers was back, full throttle; Showbiz's minimalistic but always hard hitting boom bap sound is more reminiscent of the agressive neckbreakers on the "Full Scale EP" than the jazzy production on, say, "Runaway Slave". As for AG's performance, it's damn near flawless - I said many times that A is one of those rare emcees that, just like a fine wine, only gets better and wiser with age. He might not be the most technical rapper out there, but his lyrics is so full of heart, passion and knowledge, that it more than makes up for it. On top of that, he got one of the best voices in the game, and always delivers well-written verses with perfect clarity.
"Mugshot Music" is still coming out, but before that goes down, Show & A is dropping "Mugshot Music.: Preloaded". The free promotional street album is filled with forty minutes of brand new music and hits the net on May 8. But don't be fooled, this is not a mixtape as much as it's an actual album. The fifteen songs that make up the project is all recently recorded, previously unreleased, and with no exceptions appears in full versions without annoying DJ shoutouts, blends or mixing between cuts. All the five leaks that was announced as singles from the official album album, like those mentioned above, are included on "Preloaded". They are without a doubt some of the best songs the street album has to offer, but trust me when I say that there's plenty of heat to be found all over it. The thing is that as a duo, Showbiz and AG compliments eachother in a way that very few been able to do, before or since. That chemistry was evident on their brilliant debut, "Runaway Slave", and has only grown stronger over the years, and not suprisingly that MC/producer dynamic is found here as well. There's a very interesting, almost contradictory element to their sound; Show constantly provides very gully backdrops, with rugged rhythm taking the front and center stage with basic samples or bass key melodies underlining the music. AG, on the other hand, always speaks his mind with a very calm tone, which again comes down to the clarity of his delivery. Despite their differences, or maybe more likely because of it, their respective styles makes for the perfect marriage between beats and rhymes.
Most of the tracks on "Preloaded" are hard body bangers, however there are a few more soulful cuts included as well, such as the impressive "Walk With Me". Here AG spits three verses describing the three personas that together form Andre Barnes, and everything he stands for - the man he is today, the young boy he once was as well as the person he's striving to be. It's obviously a very personal cut and Show does a great job complimenting that by filling the soundscape with warm strings, a low static female vocal sample and a repeating horn sounding effect. A similiar cut is "My Imagination" where once again the super gully boom bap is toned down a notch, as Show brings out the glaring horns, another sampled female vocalist and effectful keys that works great with the bassline and the snare and kicks. AG kicks some heavy knowledge, speaking about how his dreams and imagination has taken him exactly where he want to be, implying that you have the power to create your own destiny. The song is full of motivational quotes, delievred in vintage AG fashion; "Your career versus mine is an interlude, The Cyclop gets the mic hot/ Penny for your thoughts, like a Nike shot/ You see it, go get it, it's yours for real; Dreams are made to be fullfilled".
Towards the end of the tape, the only not completely new joint appears, as Show remixes "Experience"; the Show & AG song that appeared on the D.I.T.C. Records compilation "The Movement" a few years back. The original version blew me away when I first heard it, and still does, so the point of this far inferior remix's inclusion is somewhat of a mystery, as it doesn't add anything to the original version. AG's vocals remains the same, and while they still are as good as they was in 2008, the repetitive and flat out boring production never come close to make his wise words any justice. The two final tracks, the short but deadly single "Suspended Animation" and the album closer "The Bond" more than makes up for the minor missteps though. Both tracks ends the street album on a perfect note and will have you fiending for more ASAP. "Suspended Animation" is straight up futuristic boom bap, meant to be played out LOUD for the best effect, complete with a mean verse filled with sick battle rhymes. "The Bond" is one of the finest pieces on the entire LP; the duo uses the three minutes to create a testament as to why and how they have managed to stay together and relevant for all those years. AG is citing all the greats that broke up over the years, from Roc-A-Fella, to Pete Rock & CL Smooth, to Gang Starr and even The Beatles and The Supremes. Even Showbiz grabs the microphone on this one, not to rhyme like back in the day, but he's dropping some real jewels in between each verse. The beat really bonds with the lyrics, as it's reflective in nature but with just the type of fat drum kicks that makes this type of music so rugged and beautiful at the same time.
"Mugshot Music: Preloaded" is a great street album, no question about that. I wouldn't compare it to any of their earlier albums as a whole but the best moments on the LP is clear proof that these guys still are the truth. DJ Premier comes through to introduce the tape, mix it and provide some signature cuts while fellow group member OC drops by to rhyme on "Wolves" and "Berri Love". A few of the songs feels a little on "auto-pilot" mode, but the vast majority here is nothing but pure heat. And considering that this is just the "Free album before the album" (as Preemo puts it in the intro), I would imagine that these were all joints originally recorded for "Mugshot Music" which didn't make the final cut for whatever reason. That all the singles originally released as tracks from the actual LP appears here, I would say is a clear confirmation of that theory. Makes me really look forward even more to the release of the retail album when it drops; if the scrapped tracks are this hot, I can only imagine how slamming Show & A's "real" album will be. Together with OC's "Trophies", produced by Apollo Brown, "Preloaded" is without a doubt enough to hold down any D.I.T.C. head til' we'll be able to pick up "Mugshot Music". Showbiz & AG's "Preloaded" will be available on May 8, and will be up for download from The Lost Tapes right away that day, so hold on a couple days more...