La The Darkman has quite an interesting background.
A Wu-Tang affiliate, La The Darkman recorded his debut (and only) solo album, Heist of The Century, at the young age of 17. Several Wu-Tang Clan members were featured on the project, and he was able to get beats from producers such as RZA, Havoc and 4th Disciple.
Later on in his career, La The Darkman teamed up with DJ Drama and helped executive produce both Gangsta Grillz albums. La's growing presence in the industry also allowed his younger brother to get some shine. Who is his younger brother, you ask? Willie The Kid, a dude who has been making waves in the underground scene for quite a few years now and recently put out an EP with Alchemist.
Eventually, differences arose between La The Darkman and Drama, and the two stopped working together. Not that anyone really cares.
Despite the fact that La has dropped countless mixtapes over the years, he is still yet to put out an album since Heist of The Century. Why? Who knows, but that's not what this review is about.
This is about Heist of The Century, so let's get to it.
Carlos Broady, of Puff Daddy's Hitmen production group, laces a piano-sample-laden instrumental that La eats up. The beat may move at somewhat of a crawling pace, but it's still very effective, certainly projecting a Wu-Tang feel. Nice way to begin the album.
Okay; now this sounds nothing like a Wu-Tang production, and I don't mean that it's different in a good way. It just doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. Carlos Broady crapped the bed this time around. It doesn't help that this cut is nearly five minutes long, either.
3. City Lights
Havoc drops by to lay down his first of two productions on Heist of The Century here, and while the instrumental is definitely raw and appropriate for the project's content, it gets repetitive pretty quickly and the quality is a bit fuzzy. La's voice overpowers the beat, and that's never a good thing. This is hardly a bad song by any means, but better mixing could have made it a lot better.
4. What Thugs Do
Remember that awful song called "Hi Hater" that Maino put out about five or six years back? Well, "What Thugs Do" sounds a lot like it, and that's bad news, especially for an album that is supposed to be Wu-influenced. I'm not exactly sure what the hell La The Darkman was thinking here.
5. Heist of The Century
Now that's more like it. The Wu-Tang feel is back, as "Heist of The Century" absolutely sounds like something that would have been on a Wu solo album. La completely shreds this DJ Muggs instrumental, flowing effortlessly over the piano sample and making you wonder whether or not he should have recorded an album produced exclusively by Muggs. Killa Sin of Killarmy (another Wu-affiliated group that you may or may not have heard of) joins The Darkman on this, and he comes through with a damn fine performance of his own.
6. Fifth Disciple
Any guesses as to who produced this short track? That's right. 4th Disciple! Great job cracking the code if that's what your answer was. Anyway, "Fifth Disciple" is what it is. A one-verse cut by La The Darkman that makes you question whether or not this was a song that La never actually finished and merely threw onto the album as a formality. This seemed kind of pointless, especially considering that the instrumental fades out as The Darkman continues to rap toward the end.
7. Now Y
This is just freaking awesome. La The Darkman's hook is especially menacing, and he raps with an extraordinary energy that was missing throughout most of the first six tracks. Carlos Broady's beat is sick, and La sounds more comfortable than ever. I'm not sure why The Darkman didn't just use these types of hardcore instrumentals throughout the album instead of including records like "What Thugs Do." If only we had a time machine to go back in time and stop him...
8. Spring Water
Actually, despite the upbeat nature of Broady's instrumental and the fact that I just criticized La's inclusion of such beats one sentence ago, this wasn't that bad. It may not have been an ideal track for Raekwon to hop on, but you know what? The Chef sounds pretty decent on this. I guess that's what happens when you're a dope ass rapper; you fit right in over any type of production.
9. 4 Souls
Back to the rawness. Carlos Broady's production on "4 Souls" will make your head nod uncontrollably, and I imagine that La The Darkman's head was doing so even while he was recording his raps. Guest artist Shotti Screwface (the hell kind of name is that?) jumps on this cut, as well, and he puts down some nice lines. Also, La does his best Method Man impression on his second verse. Come to think of it, why the hell didn't The Darkman get Meth on this?
10. Street Life
Another one of those tracks where La's voice drowns out the beat. Not that Broady's beat on "Street Life" was all that great where you'd want to hear it anyway.
4th Disciple's instrumental here is pretty solid, possessing both a soulful and grimy quality at the same time. Maia Campbell's guest vocals add a beautiful touch to the the record, as well. That's about all I have to say. Decent song.
12. Figaro Chain
Havoc's second production on Heist of The Century is far superior to his first, and this time, he even drops a verse. A short verse, but still a verse, nonetheless. La The Darkman flows very well over Hav's dusty beat, coming through with one of his best performances on the album. This cut really is freaking great. It would have been nice if it were a little longer, though.
13. Polluted Wisdom
Considering that RZA only had one beat on this project, you would think he would have taken time to make it dope as hell, but it seems to me that RZA half-assed "Polluted Wisdom." The instrumental is extremely repetitive, and I personally believe he probably could have done more with the sample he used. I can't imagine any of the official Wu-Tang members would have chosen to include this record on one of their albums, but maybe that's why La got it to begin with. Finally, to make matters worse, the beat goes on for about two minutes after The Darkman is done rapping. Stupid.
14. Gun Rule
This was pretty good. Carlos Broady brings another gritty instrumental (I especially love that snare drum) to the table, and, as you may have guessed, La found his niche on it.
15. Element of Surprise
La The Darkman recruited Masta Killa and U-God for this 4th Disciple-laced track. Despite the heavy presence of the Wu, this wasn't very good, as both guests just sounded awkward on the beat.
16. As The World Turnz
Raekwon makes his second appearance on Heist of The Century here, and this time, he picked a suitable record. 4th Disciple does his best RZA impression, as "As The World Turnz" certainly sounds like something RZA would have laced for The Chef on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx....Good effort by all involved.
17. Wu-Blood Kin
Carlos Broady's instrumental here is freaking ILL. If you don't like it, then I have no idea what you're doing with your life. Ghostface Killah is on this, too, but unfortunately, he only does the hook. 12 O'Clock, Ol' Dirty Bastard's brother, drops the other verse. I mean, if you're gonna invite Ghostface, shouldn't you have him drop a verse instead of some virtual unknown? Oh well. This was still great.
18. I Want It All
La The Darkman saved the best for last. If I remember correctly, this was the main single on Heist of The Century. Broady's beat is simultaneously introspective and dark, and La raps about what he dreams to have. DJ Premier actually remixed this, but you know what? This original version is better. That's right; the original version is actually superior to the remix by one of the best producers in history. "I Want It All" always seems to make its way into rotation on my iPod, and for good reason. Just an awesome song all-around.
There is too much filler on Heist of The Century for me to label it a classic, but it remains a very good album that was certainly overlooked. La The Darkman may not be saying anything that we haven't heard before, but he certainly has talent on the mic, and the fact that he recorded this project when he was 17 is impressive.
The main problem with Heist of The Century is that it is a bit too lengthy. There are 18 songs here, and the album would have been better off without quite a few of them.
Another occasional issue is the beat selection. La clearly sounds better over harder, rawer instrumentals, so you really have to question why he decided to incorporate some of the more "bouncy" productions on this album. "Shine" and "What Thugs Do," for example, had absolutely no place on Heist of The Century.
All of that being said, the tracks that were good were really good, and nothing was so awful that it brought the overall product down all that drastically.
For whatever reason, La The Darkman faded into musical obscurity after putting out this record 15 years ago. Yes, he was still involved with promoting other artists, but other than the mixtapes he dropped, he never even came close to dropping another full-length LP, and that is definitely odd.
If you're one of those Wu-Tang loyalists, then you should absolutely give this a listen. If you're one of those underground hip-hop fanatics that likes to find forgotten treasures, then you should give this a listen. Actually, if you're a fan of hip-hop period, you should give this a listen. Chances are, you will find something to like on here.
1. I Want It All
2. Figaro Chain
3. Now Y
4. Wu-Blood Kin
5. 4 Souls