CunninLynguists - Strange Journey Volume 3 (Album Review)

CunninLynguists - Strange Journey Volume 3 (Real Hip-Hop)

"Strange Journey Volume 3" is the latest album from hip-hop trio CunninLynguists, which currently consists of emcee/producers Deacon the Villain, Kno and Natti. The project features guest verses from Del the Funky Homosapian, Aesop Rock, Sadistik, J-Live, Zumbi (of Zion I) and others as well as production from Kno, Thomax and RJD2. It was set to be released on April 1, 2014 via APOS Music, but was eventually released early on March 25, 2014 as a "Name Your Price" project over on CunninLynguists website.

1) Ignition - Skit setting up the album.

2) Strange Universe (featuring Del The Funky Homosapien) - The first song on the album features a beautifully spacey instrumental that sets the cinematic tone of the album straight out the gate. The feel of the song is similar in theme to "3030" by Deltron, but the comparison really ends there since everything else on the song is definitely full of that signature CunninLynguists sound. It was a nice touch having Del spit the first verse that you hear on the album and both he and Natti go on to rip the instrumental, kicking some rhymes full of space imagery as our interstellar hosts leave on their long journey to Earth. This is dope and is a real nice way to kick off the album. - 4/5

3) In The City (featuring Zumbi of Zion I) - This was one of the songs released in promotion of the album a few weeks back and its very dope. The beat is basically a real chill, laid back acoustic guitar loop with some soft backing vocals and synths that give the instrumental a dreamy feel. Lyrically MC Zumbi and Deacon both come through and kick some rhymes describing the good and bad of living life in the city, which must be quite a learning experience for the newly arrived travelers. Dope shit. - 4/5

4) South California (featuring Tunji) - The beat on this track starts out with a nice vocal sample blended together with the sound of the ocean before has an almost carefree guitar loop comes in and sets the breezy tone for the rest of the song. The beat is real airy and both Natti and Tunji (who was one half of the hip-hop group Inverse before they broke up), sound great over it, rapping about love cut short due to the women they were feelin' heading back home to Southern Cali. Another dope track. - 4/5

5) Drunk Dial (featuring Murs and Grieves) - Kno delivers a slightly off-kilter instrumental with some playful pianos, brassy horns and ambient noises in the background that give the beat a sort of quirky feel. The vibe of the instrumental meshes nicely with the humorous lyrics on the song, as Natti and guests Murs and Grieves rap about the downsides of getting wasted and picking up your phone. The rhymes are quite funny and the beat is real dope. Nice. - 4/5

6) The Morning (featuring Blu and Psalm One) - The beat on this cut has a more somber feel than the comical previous track, with Kno coming with a moody violin and piano loop blended with a crazy vocal sample on the chorus. As far as the rhymes go, Psalm One starts the song off with an ill first verse with Natti and Blu following up, as all three emcees bare their soul and spit some emotional raps about their issues with women and with love in general. Yet another dope track. - 4/5

7) Innerspace (featuring Toby) - Toby, the second half of the aforementioned hip-hop group Inverse, shows up on this track that features some ambient synths and a haunting vocal sample that is woven throughout the instrumental. The beat is lush and spacious and is one of my favorites on the album so far. Lyrically the song is dope as well, with Deacon the Villain, Toby and Natti trading off some introspective verses about trying to find inner peace and such, with Deacon really shining as he spits
"Role models taught us you oughta just roll up
In life there's no love, what ever your role was

Find wealth, no need to find self
Stand in line 'til you find your spot on the shelf"
Very dope track. - 4.5/5

8) Miley 3000 - Very humorous skit.

9) Guide You Through Shadows (featuring Substantial and RA Scion) - Deacon, Substantial and RA Scion all spit fire over another mid-tempo piano instrumental full of beautiful backing vocals, ambient keyboards and strings. The beat has a real soulful, organic feel to it and all three emcees come correct over it, kicking some uplifting rhymes about helping those who are lost find their way. Very nice. - 4/5

10) Castles (featuring Aesop Rock and Sadistik) - This was another of the songs released in promotion of the project and its absolute fire. The beat is simply beautiful, with an ethereal vocal loop and breezy sample layered over head nodding drums, and all three featured emcees just rip it, spitting some honest rhymes about their fears and inner demons. This is easiliy one of my favorite songs on an already stellar album. - 5/5

11) Kings (featuring Sheisty Khrist) - Kno delivers another banging instrumental full of distorted electric guitars, acoustics and a soaring backing sample that give the beat a real epic feel. As far as the rhymes go, Natti and Deacon share the mic with fellow collaborator Sheisty Khrist (who just provides the chorus on here) as both emcees kick some bars full of kingly references and imagery as a way of boasting about how ill they are in the hip-hop game. I'd have to agree. Dope shit. - 4.5/5

12) Hot (featuring Celph Titled and Apathy) - The instrumental on this track centers around a vocal loop that gives the song its name, with some added synths and keyboards to give the beat more depth. The instrumental is real nice and Deacon, Natti and Army of The Pharaoh's members Celph Titled and Apathy all sound good over it, spitting some rhymes full of their usual witty punchlines and humorous one-liners. While this is good, its not quite as good as the past few tracks for me. - 3.5/5

13) The Format (featuring Masta Ace and Mr. SOS) - This song is a sequel to CunninLynguist's classic track "Seasons" off of their "Southernunderground" album, with each emcee using a different audio format in place of the four seasons of the original track. Like the original, this song is produced by RJD2 and it's definitely a banger. The beat is real nice, with some soft piano keys and ill scratching during the chorus, and all four featured emcees do their thing, as should be expected by now. This song is also notable for featuring Kno's lone verse on the album as well as teaming Mr SOS back up with Deacon and Kno to form the previous incarnation of CunninLynguists as a group. Anyways, this shit is fire. - 5/5

14) Dying Breed - As is this. The beat on this track, courtesy of Norwegian producer Thomax, is absolutely beautiful and sounds very similar in vein to something Kno would produce. The layers to the instrumental are simply hypnotic and both Deacon and Natti flow over it like water, making this track another one of the standouts on the album for me. Definitely a banger.  - 5/5.

15) Makes You Wanna Cry (featuring Sheisty Khrist) - This song has a darker instrumental than many of the others, with almost ominous backing vocals and soft keys that might have sounded right at home on CunninLynguists previous album, "Oneirology." The beat has a sort of dreamy vibe to it that I'm really feelin' and both Deacon and Sheisty Khrist sound really good over it, rapping about some of the more negative aspects of life in the world today. Nice. - 4/5

16) Beyond The Sun (featuring J-Live) - This song was another one of the tracks that was released early as a sneak peak into the album and its a banger. The beat is centered around a heavenly sped up vocal sample, soaring backing vocals, soft guitar plucks and keyboards that make it yet another one of my favorites on the album. Lyrically the song is just as dope, with Deacon and J-Live spitting verses from the perspective of the alien visitors who came to Earth seeking intelligent and empathic life and end up being pretty disappointed with what they find. Very dope. - 5/5

17) Mission Assessment - Another humorous skit ending the story and setting up the next track.

18) Urutora Kaiju (featuring Tonedeff) - Woah. Just as they are about to leave Earth, our interstellar hosts run into some trouble when their flight path is blocked by a Kaiju (which is usually just a big monster like Godzilla for those that don't know). The beat on this song is absolutely crazy and is filled with an unrelenting energy, which both Natti and Tonedeff funnel into their rhymes as they spit their verses in a rapid fire flow. This shit is fire and is a real dope way to close out the album. - 5/5

I'm going to rate the album

4.5 / 5

because it's absolute fire the whole way through. The beats are simply beautiful throughout, with Kno crafting a seemingly endless supply of bangers that kept my head nodding throughout the entire project. Guest producers Thomax and RJD2 both deliver heat as well, with each of their contributions ending up as standouts tracks for me. Lyrically the album is just as strong as the instrumentals, with Natti, Deacon and all of the featured guests kicking some thought provoking rhymes on each and every track. It's crazy how ill the guest features are and how every verse seems to build upon the theme of the song they are featured on. Every track has a unique topic and all of the artists on that track actually stick to the topic, which is something that is unfortunately very rare in hip-hop nowadays. The songs all work as a whole and never feel like emailed in verses just cut and pasted over an instrumental. It's crazy to think that this album ended up as a "Name Your Price" album over on Make sure you head over there ASAP and support dope hip-hop.

Favorite songs: Castles, Kings, The Format, Beyond The Sun, Dying Breed

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Awesome album that deserves all of the praise it got here. :D