Back in the 90s, California-based Raw B catalyzed his career as co-host and DJ for the critically acclaimed underground rap-based show Beat Sauce. The show featured notable guest names in hip hop – everyone from Afrikka Bambatta and KRS-ONE to Jay Z and Eminem. As expected, his popularity as a DJ rose in conjunction with that of the show, earning him Best Local DJ in 2001 by the San Francisco Bay Guardian through his enduring presence in both the underground and mainstream club circuits. Throughout the next decade, he became known for his accomplishments in radio, namely KNBR’s Morning Show with Murph & Mac, as well as KMEL’s Sway in the Morning, hosted by rapper Sway Calloway.
Musically, after numerous collaborative efforts over nearly three decades, DJ Raw B has released his latest album Uncorrupted, following 2019’s Born Illness. From the transition between albums, Raw B’s new endeavor harkens back to a primarily old school hip hop foundation. On the opener, “Toscin” The accompaniment that plays alongside the breakbeat gives off a wave of nostalgia, just as much as the light to the vivid color tones of the album’s cover. The two tracks to follow, “Genesis” and “Kill Zone” (featuring Emcee Infinite and previous collaborator Luke Sick, respectively), also seem emphatic to the cover art, centering on a sense of burgeoning and subsequent resilience in the joy of art despite persistent hardships. I appreciate how the vibe fits into another instrumental track, “Unspeakable,” which could very well come across as a kind of dark disco. Its noir-esque bass holds prominence in the mix, while the sporadic, haunting synths accentuate the pacing. From the album’s mid-point, the Z-man-featured “Bad Man, Good Heart,” which rings pertinent in emphasizing the thematic angle. In the song’s context, even though one’s intentions may wholly be for good, they can sometimes be misunderstood, held back, and even be of stark contrast amidst continued tribulation. Further, the moods emanated from the following track, “Out of Body Experience,” seem to allude to a hazy, dreamlike state, as if the soul is continuing to wander on autopilot.
Toward the latter half of the album, there seem to be further nuances of experiencing an autopilot mentality. The Dan Wolf-led track “The MCA Song” (featuring the MCA-rapped chorus from the Beastie Boys’ “Alive”) ironically centers on death – given, on the surface, MCA’s passing, but in a broader context, the frequent, ongoing uncertainty around it. By the same token, Luke Sick’s “Cooler In the Cut” applies to the indifference that permeates one’s mind once they resort to a quick succession of violent measures. However, the album’s final track, “L.O.L” closes the album with a party rock/funk feel, and a refreshingly positive message to boot – lots of love. For the predominantly bleak direction that comprises the majority of the album, rapper Curtis Spicoli spreads a positive message of maintaining that love toward supporters, but also acknowledges the humble approach of forgiving, and ultimately blessing, those who otherwise appear to be a bad influence on one’s life.
Overall, DJ Raw B’s Uncorrupted is clear evidence that even the most established artists are capable of growth. While the old school inspired instrumentation provides a cool throwback, each featured rapper provides a piece of the album’s theme that is not only enhanced by their distinct flows and tonalities, but fits with the other firmly in terms of both progression and cohesion. Whether it’s another collaboration or solo effort, I’m definitely looking forward to what Raw B puts out down the line.
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