Album Review: Language Arts Vol. 3

Attention teachers: you need to get up on Mega Ran’s Language Arts Series…you will appreciate it more than most…

That’s not to say that the casual hip hop listener won’t enjoy the series but there are certain nuances throughout that will appeal to the educator, the gamer, the comic book head and well, the nerdy book worm (I fall into the first and last categories).

Ran takes us to school one last time as he ties up the storyline behind everyone’s favorite Teacher – Rapper -Hero. (By the way, for people new to Mega Ran, I go back and forth between referring to him as Random, Ran and Mega Ran…all the same person).

If you’re already up on the series, skip down to the review. For everyone else here’s the quick run down of what you need to know:

We follow the story of our protagonist, Mr. J as he tries to survive the grind as a teacher, rapper and hero.

From Mega Ran:

Mega Ran in Language Arts is a story-driven album loosely based on my own life, showing the many struggles of a teacher who also juggles a music career as well as a personal life, while battling an evil much worse than he could ever imagine. In between that I hold “class” by doing several tracks based on some of my favorite middle school level literary works. Think Dangerous Minds x 8 Mile x Spider-Man.

The 3 album set has some spectacular folks helping out, from producers EOM and DN3, to famed voice actor Kyle Hebert (Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, Street Fighter IV and so much more), who narrates the story, to associate production by composers Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica) and Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy, Canabalt) Others on the albums include some of my favorite people in the world: mc chris, MC Frontalot, MC Lars, Storyville, Wordsworth, Punchline, Ariano, K-Murdock, Writers Guild, and many more.

Volume 3

We pick up on the eve before the championship rap battle where Mr. J is trying to find balance between a missing girlfriend, a stressful teaching situation, and the make-or-break-me looming rap battle.  I’m going to begin with the first line of the of the first track – Destiny, “I can’t tell you how the story’s gonna end.” What I can tell you is straight out the gates you’re getting some solid production (handled by DN3, EOM, and Fingaz, among others). You move through the laid back vibes of “Destiny” and then elevate a few notches higher on the headnod rating scale with “How Bad Do You Want It.” Our hero contemplates his situation on this track and in doing so somehow becomes the mouthpiece for educators everywhere  – “So while I’m teaching about grammar and syntax, I need to make an impact so I give’em life skills.”  The hook will ring true with my wife’s current view – How bad do you want it? And do you think you can handle it? All the pressure.  All the expectations that you’re facing.

By the time we get to the more underground style beats of “The Regimen” we’re reminded that, oh yeah, Ran’s got that intricate wordplay. This he uses on training day as he prepares for the big battle.

Then we wind down for, hands down, my favorite track that he lays down.  On the previous 2 Volumes Mega Ran brings a classic story to life with beats and rhymes.  On volume one, we had “Buggin,” a hip hop version of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Nerd excitement begun.  I’m buggin’.  By volume two my nerdy excitement had warped 2 levels as he crafted his version of “Flowers for Algernon” (Me and the Mouse 2.0). What does he do for the coup de grâce? Why not some classic Maya Angelou? “Maya’s Song” is his rendition of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”  Finger snaps.

Here’s the official video of Buggin’ from Volume One.

Back to the story line and we’re back to bars, bars, bars and a battle beat with “Ready to Rumble.” And..there’s no question who wins the rap battle here.

The following track needs to be played in classrooms across the country prior to standardized test taking. “Test Taking Tips” is a Soulquarian type beat that gives Random the freedom to do his teacher thing without giving you the feeling like you’re behind a desk listening to a lecture.  That same vibe continues on the next track, “Game Depot.” This is the point in the storyline where our hero takes the roll of detective, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of a game called “Kill Count.”

**Hold up. I’m gettin’ too deep into the storytelling and I don’t wanna do that.  I want to leave some of the plot for you to check out. From here on out I’m just gonna review the music.  Trust me when I say it’s a great story and will undoubtedly make for a great comic book/video game (and apparently, those are in the works).**

“The Path” gets us back to a move-ya-body feeling while Random gives us a rundown of what he in reality has gone through as a teacher/emcee.  It’s that classic art imitating life while the life imitates the art. Both Mr. J and Ran have had to deal with those late nights of hip hop followed by those early morning alarm calls. This track gives us that first person insight.

“Student vs. Teacher” is a back and forth rant between students and substitute teachers.  Lot of truth in this one.  The beat track, while not bad, was my least favorite on the album.  I think maybe there’s just too much going on in this one. It’s like trying to make out a conversation at a New Years party…you’re having a good time but you’re missing out on some stuff being said.

“Everything” is Ran rocking over a hard beat and doing so properly.  This one has to be heard by anybody who has ever found themselves conflicted with trying to follow their dreams.  I’m seeing Random in here, for a minute I forgot that I was supposed to be hearing from Mr. J.

There are 2 bonus tracks on this album, neither a throw away (thanks for the ‘but wait there’s more’, Mega Ran). The last one, as a teacher, has to be a personal favorite from Random’s catalogue.  Why? Well, for starters he’s got 4 MC’s going in on what it is to be a teacher.  Truth is spoken ladies and gentlemen. Truth.  And it doesn’t hurt that one of my favorite emcees has the chance to drop bars on this one.

This is a great album. The last in a trilogy is hardly ever referred to as the “best of the three.” While I can’t quite say that…this one comes pretty damn close. I enjoyed this album from start to finish (my kids even came in and stared at the speaker for a bit as they tried to make out what was happening).

Here’s the breakdown:

Beats –          B+

Rhymes –     A

Storyline –    A-

Originality – A

The album drops next week (11/20/12). My recommendation…COP IT.

The whole trilogy can be found at http://megaranmusic.com/

 

 

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