Producer Ski Beatz has been pimping the shit out of his glorfied art project, the 24 Hour Karate School, over the past few years. The subject of today's post, 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight (thankfully unrelated to the sparkly vampire romance of the same name), is the third album released under the name of the collective in as many years (at least in the United States; overseas, some of you may have also come across 24 Hour Karate School Japan, which would actually make this the fourth installment.) This is in addition to his work with rappers such as Curren$y, Murs, and a slew of others who have aligned themselves with Ski and his business partner Dame Dash, all in an effort to promote themselves while maintaining artistic integrity, which is guaranteed by the fact that Ski's label DD172 doesn't have much of a marketing budget, since 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight dropped pretty much out of nowhere.
By his own admission, this project is comprised mostly of older material that never saw the light of day for various reasons. Ski Beatz claims that 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight is his attempt at creating a moody atmosphere, aiming for a jazzy, intimate evening with friends, and the songs he selected from his vaults (along with a handful that were recorded especially for the album) were what he feels are the best representation of that concept.
However, all I heard was "comprised of older material", so I already have pretty much zero hopes for this album. Insert audible groan here.
1. DIDIT4THEGREEN (FEAT. DASH & RETCH)
24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight gets off to an inauspicious start with "Didit4thegreen", a dull track featuring rappers Dash and the unfortunately named Retch, neither of whom muster up any cleverness or creativity in order to stand out on the crowded field that is our chosen genre. Ski's beat sounds okay at first, with its jazzy notes accompanied by a minimalist drum machine, but he doesn't trust his own instincts, choosing to also layer in some not-so-subtle guitar riffs and some cheesy stabs punctuating the shitty hooks, thereby making this opening salvo sound too busy. Pass.
2. FLY BY (FEAT. CURREN$Y)
This song was kind of hilarious, if only because guest star Curren$y (who skipped out on 24 Hour Karate School Part 2) admits during the second verse that "Fly By" isn't actually about anything, but the way he delivers that message (after going off on a side trip regarding how best to protect his cars from the many birds in his immediate vicinity that like to shit on his windshields) is so out of left field that you can't help but laugh. Ski's beat is much more musically inclined than the previous track could ever aspire to be, and the combination of its pleasant instrumental wit Curren$y's weed-laced lackadaisical flow make for an entertaining experience. This actually wasn't bad.
3. HEAVEN IS (FEAT. C PLUS)
Ski takes another stab at an intimate instrumental smushed together with a hard-as-fuck drum beat, and is much more successful this time around, although a lot of the credit belongs to Sacramento rapper C Plus, whose J. Cole-on-quaaludes flow fits the backdrop perfectly. C Plus delivers two dope verses and a simplistic chorus that doesn't get in the way and, as such, isn't as annoying as it could be. I wouldn't be surprised if "Heaven Is" ends up being the best song on all of 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight: as a solo showcase for C Plus and a way for Ski Beatz to prove that his beats have evolved since Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents", it completely works.
4. GENTLEMEN'S QUARTERLY (FEAT. STALLEY)
The gloriously bee-bearded Stalley spends most of his time these days as a member of Officer Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group, but he still finds time for his boy Ski on "Gentlemen's Quarterly", an attempted celebration of elegance that is sabotaged by Ski's mismatching beat, an overly wordy hook that tries to be clever by referencing a Kanye West song that most of you had probably forgotten about until reading this very sentence (that would be "Stronger", by the way), and the normally-impressive Stalley's own two verses, which are okay enough, but not so much that they don't evaporate from your consciousness upon impact. In short, this song depressed the shit out of me. What a shame.
5. LIVING IT UP (FEAT. MIKEY ROCKS & TRADEMARK DA SKYDIVER)
This collaboration between the "Cool Kids and the Jets" only managed to generate enough interest from one member of each party, apparently. Mikey Rocks represents his duo well enough, but still hasn't proven to me that The Cool Kids are worth paying any fucking attention to in our chosen genre (there are lots of artists, and it's impossible to follow all of them, so you pick your battles). Trademark, on the other hand, sounds much better on "Living It Up" (save for his shitty hook) than he has on anything else I've heard him on. That isn't to say that Curren$y's Jet Life weed carrier suddenly sounds good behind the mic: far from it. But the man is learning and growing, which is more than you can say for most of these motherfuckers. For his part, Ski's beat was alright, if a bit cheesy: I hope that isn't a running theme.
6. FLY HIGH (FEAT. SMOKE DZA & TERRI WALKER)
That title makes it appear that "Fly High" is a companion piece to "Fly By", but the earlier Curren$y track was much better. (Spitta also recorded his own companion pieces to "Fly By", both of which appear on his own Muscle Car Chronicles, as is my understanding, if you care about that sort of thing.) I don't want to say Smoke DZA's song is terrible, but I have no choice, and his rap name is ridiculous, and his mother's a whore. Ski's instrumental is so fucking boring that there is no way DZA could have overcome that obstacle, but he could have at least tried. And what's up with guest vocalist Terri Walker receiving a performing credit for basically humming in the fucking background?
7. HIP HOP AND LOVE (FEAT. MURS & TABI BONNEY)
Tabi Bonney remains on my shit list due to his piss-poor performance on "Frontin'", one of the worst songs of all of 2011, a year when a lot of shit sucked, so that's saying a lot. ("Frontin'" is, conveniently enough, featured on 24 Hour Karate School Part 2, and is one of the reasons that album wasn't very good.) I believe "Frontin'" to be Bonney's middle finger directed at our chosen art form, so hearing his punk ass rapping about how much 1990s hip hop means to him sounds forced at best, and outright malicious at worst. So yes, this shit sucks, too. And he drags fellow guest star Murs through the mud with him, even though he didn't do anything wrong. Tabi Bonney: forever making me turn this car around. Dick. (This is the third project that features this song, after Bonney's The Summer Years and the Ski Beatz/Murs project Love and Rockets Vol. 1: The Transformation; only Ski himself knows why he felt that this particular track deserved three separate chances to catch on with the listener.)
8. CITY LIGHTS (FEAT. NAJEE)
The female vocals on "City Lights" sound fucking demonic, like an Auto-Tuned Satan climbing out of the Hellmouth just so he can walk through Times Square unencumbered. They're terrible, so much so that your significant other's ears will start to bleed, and she's nowhere near you as you're reading this article, is she? Rapper Najee, who I was first introduced to on 24 Hour Karate School Part 2, isn't awful, but he hasn't yet formed a distinctive identity behind the microphone, so he easily gets lost in the shuffle. It probably didn't help that Ski's beat isn't all that compelling, either.
9. ON (FEAT. SAM ADAMS & OLAMIDE FAISON)
On one hand, it took Ski nine tracks before the listener is finally presented with a track that celebrates himself, his band The Senseis, and the 24 Hour Karate School project as a whole, so his restraint should be noted. Which it was, in that previous sentence. On the other hand, this song was pretty awful: Olamide Faison's singing was blandly generic, like store brand peanut butter, and guest rapper Sam Adams clearly didn't have much to say on this dressed-up freestyle, so he fucking talks about Ski on pretty much every fourth bar. On the third hand (wait, you two don't have one of those?), Ski's own instrumental fails his guests: I got the feeling that Sam Adams (awful rap name, by the way) knew it sucked, but elected to use it anyway, just so he can now say that he has a track in his catalog that was produced by the same guy who produced Jay-Z's "Streets Is Watching". Bleh.
10. TIME GOES (FEAT. MAC MILLER & LOCKSMITH)
Overrated Great White Hype Mac Miller becomes the highest-profile artist on 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight by default, since Curren$y has never had a number one album on the Billboard charts. Over a migraine headache of a Ski beat, Miller fails to impress, spitting the same party piffle that annoyed the shit out of me on his debut album Blue Slide Park (has everybody pretty much forgotten about that album yet?), while Locksmith, who doesn't receive a proper credit for some reason, turns in the other verse sounding pretty much like Mac Miller's alter-ego, which was lame. Mac's chorus is also so fucking bad that you may want to shoot yourself in the face: I implore you not to do so, if only so you can read the rest of today's post. Yep, I'm selfish like that.
11. THANK GOD (FEAT. RUGZ D. BEWLER)
24 Hour Karate School fifth-year senior Rugz D. Bewler closes out the project focusing on the nipples and lips of the object of his affection, essentially bringing the listener an alternate take of "Time Goes", as both songs explore similar, non-martial-arts-related territory. "Thank God" has more of a positive bent, although in no way is that intended to be an endorsement of such a boring fucking song.
THE LAST WORD: 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight has a few more decent tracks than its predecessor, but Ski Beatz is losing favor with me very quickly, especially with his admission that this project was essentially a compilation of throwaway tracks. I admire the fact that he's now working with a live band instead of sampling every little thing, but while he may believe that he was aiming for an intimate sound with this album, what the listener ends up getting is a continuous series of half-thought out ideas, most of them punctuated by guest appearances by novice rappers who most certainly won't be making any moves in this industry. I'm sure that there are a lot of bloggers out there who praise Ski's work ethic: after pretty much falling off the face of the Earth when Jay-Z moved on to other producers, he's been on an incredible run in the past three or four years. But when you're churning out shit like this, a vacation may be in order. "Heaven Is" is a fantastic track, but I take back what I wrote earlier: it isn't that great of a showcase for Ski. But it does make me want to track down the work of C Plus, which isn't really how this is supposed to work. In short, 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight makes a persuasive argument for a temporary shutdown while the building is fumigated.
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