M.O.B.Stars
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M.O.B.Stars

Paterson, New Jersey, United States | SELF

Paterson, New Jersey, United States | SELF
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Maintaining Our Brothers, Stayin’ Totally Alert Revolutionary Style, better known at M.O.B. Stars, lives up to the name of their latest release, Substance Over Swag. You won’t hear pop tracks full of bragging and chain pimping across the album’s eighteen tracks. Instead, the LP is full of substantial raps crafted by a variety of strong hip-hop voices. The rap collective, made up of Jochi, Silk City Genius (S.C.G.), One Brother In Evolution (O.B), and SaFE, out of Paterson, New Jersey, balances its voices perfectly, playing each emcee against each other in a way that makes the album flow easily from track to track.

From the start of II S.O.S. (Substance Over Swag), it’s clear that Lupe Fiasco’s influence runs throughout these tracks. Each rapper’s tone resembles that Chicago native’s relaxed flow, unhurried and unconcerned with highlighting the beat. Producer Arkutec, who crafts the majority of the album’s tracks, twirls beats that work well with the quartet’s flow, anchoring each tune without dominating or fading to the background. Alongside Lupe, the influence of Nas, Talib Kweli, and even Spanish rappers Calle 13 on tracks like “Chuck Norris,” makes itself heard, as M.O.B. Stars strap on their backpacks and tackle weighty topics. The group sounds like CyHi Da Prynce met Drake and decided to get lyrical. These tracks aren’t the typical posturing of hip-hop, opting instead, to uses the seventy-six minutes to spit some truth. There are definitely tracks that deal with the womanizing aspects of the rap game, such as “Keeper” and “Be My Girl,” but elsewhere they touch on the trials of coming up, like on “We Can Make It.” “We Can Make It” underlines another thread that runs throughout the album; amidst talk of haters, they stress the need for confidence and faith. “There’s a lot of stresses in today’s world man. The only thing you can do is make the most of what you have and appreciate it, you know what I’m saying?”

More than having substantial lyrics, M.O.B. Stars has a varied attack, with voices that hold down both the treble side of things as well as the bass rumble. “Hourglass” focuses on the baritone notes, with rumbling verses that push the song forward. Others, like “Rock Steady,” lead with the higher register, complete with vinyl pops, before digging down into meatier sounds. Within each song, there are highs and lows, ebbs and flows the keep the tracks moving forward.

Despite the variation, however, the album is sometimes plagued by a sameness in its sound. In fact, the only real drawback to II S.O.S. is the fact that the 18 tracks sometimes blend into each other, sounding too similar. The beats, centered around basic drum beats, airy pads, and easygoing guitar riffs, rarely grab the listener’s attention. Even those that do, like “Boss Status” and “Backwards,” don’t stand out distinctly enough from the rest of the tracks to really make the record avoid sounding a bit muddled at times. The quartet could do with some real bangers or different looks here and there to spice it up. Taken in small chunks, these lyrics are worth paying attention to. When they’re put in order across over an hour’s worth of music, they lose some punch.

There are flops on II S.O.S., like “No Fear,” but they are few and far between. On the whole, the record is a solid release from a group that shows a lot of promise. With a little more direction applied to their message and a little more variation applied to their sound, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the world of lyrical hip-hop.

Review by Chris Barth
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - Ariel Publicity


M.O.B. Stars is a four-man hip-hop group with a penchant for wordplay and a tendency to rap about subjects bigger than themselves. It’s at these large moments, in fact, where this group provides a unique and impressive voice that the genre desperately needs. When not working on this level, the beats and the rhymes are still there, but there’s no real substance behind it all. Other times, the songs seem crass just for the sake of being so, or downright offensive and sexist.

Part of the dynamic draw to M.O.B. Stars is the group being made up of four different artists, each with a unique voice in terms of rapping and writing. The group consists of Jochi, S.C.G., O.B., and SaFE. The digital copy of the group’s 2010 album, II S.O.S. doesn’t include a listing of credits in order to help attribute who each song was written by, but the difference in styles is strong enough to indicate the presence of a different writer from track to track. Also, according to various online sources, the last seven songs are intended to be bonus tracks and not a part of the album as an artistic statement. Unfortunately, the digital copy does not note this either, which may make the album seem too long at 18 tracks.

As mentioned, the songwriting and style changes due to the group dynamic that M.O.B. Stars embraces. The first song, “Chuck Norris,” sounds like it tries to be an empowering anthem with its repeated line of “Put ‘em up…” amongst a string of self-congratulatory praises. As far as the beat and the rhymes go, everything flows well and there is a level of wit to it all, but it’s not being used to say anything aside from self-praise.

“Mind Body Spirit” however, is a completely different animal. Compared to the piece before it, it sounds like it should be from another album entirely. On top of a smooth groove, the M.O.B. Stars rap about spiritual concepts from different belief structures, the controlling influences of government and consumerism, and self-improvement in a difficult world. “Backwards” takes on a similar theme, focusing on the political aspect and pointing out hypocrisy. “Too many things in life, oxymoronic…” “dealing with this negative **** every day/It’s energy being reversed the other way.” The social commentary is witty, astute, and deep; a tremendous cut above the typical hip-hop fare.

“Brand New World” is another piece of commentary, drawing upon the problems and fears of today and making parallels to dystopian societies like those in the novels, 1984 and Brave New World. The backing beat has a futuristic groove to it as well, relying on heavy keyboard effects and lighter percussive beats. Unfortunately, the quality drops down for a bit after this point and the songwriting descends back into more typical fare, and worse. Where as “Watch Ya Back” and “No Fear” aren’t too memorable, “Keeper” is a crude rap about using women for sex and dismissing them. Though the looped synthesizer backing is catchy, the song itself sounds horribly degrading to females in general. Oddly enough, “Never Let You Go” seems to go in the opposite moral direction, before pulling a 180 at the end and saying, “Plus it’s evident that you don’t support the dream/compassion demonstrated from you wasn’t really what it seemed…” It’s an odd way to end a song that started very positive.

At the very least, the album proper ends with a truly uplifting song, “We Can Make It.” Built on a looped sample featuring a powerful, soulful vocal singing, “Oh little girl, feel like we can make it…” the group rattles off a rap about hope and escaping destitution. As great as the piece is, it’s still odd to compare this to songs like “Chuck Norris” or “Keeper” and hear such very different messages.

The bonus tracks are nice additions, even if they suffer from the same kind of mixed messages that the album songs do. Overall, the beats are solid, the raps are well-written, but the subjects are so varied that there’s no unifying theme. It feels like II S.O.S. suffers from having too many cooks stirring the pot, adding in each of their own ingredients with none of them blending together well. Still, when M.O.B. Stars hits on a lyric about society and its ills, they express themselves like few others can, and it’s that kind of work that warrants a listen.

Review by Heath Andrews
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) - Ariel Publicity


M.O.B.Stars (O.B., S.C.G. Jochi, and newest member Safe) are currently working on their second release, “California Eden“. That will be like an introductory project to Safe (who can be seen at the end of the “Watch Ya Back” video, when the song “Diamendz” starts up). As of right now, the date the album will drop is May 6th, but that could change. To get you ready for the album, the guys have plans of releasing a “Spring Collection” of tracks. This will include tracks that were recorded before the first mixtape and tracks that don’t make it onto “California Eden“. So be on the look out for that.

But for now, get more familiar with these NJ rappers and check out their 2010 mixtape, “II S.O.S.“. It’s a collection 11 tracks and then 7 others that are considered “bonus tracks”. Production from Arkutec, Vansbeats, TrakkBlazers, The Cratez, Big Boy, Clinton Place, Streets The Goon, and Anno Domini.

With a roundhouse kick, the mixtape begins with “Chuck Norris“. After verbally beating you up, they switch gears and rise with a positive energy in “Mind, Body, and Spirit“. It focuses on elevating your mind, body, and spirit by not letting any negativity effect you (“Flushin’ out the garbage from society’s great tricks // Prepare mind body for the cycle of great shift // Entering the spirit, to rise with a great lift // But it’s not something physical to get attached to // More like the feeling when you’re seeking a rapture“). “Backwards” plays into the hypocrisy that’s found within social construction, such as those in politics and religion (“Too many things in life oxymoronic // Politicians say they hate weed, but blow chronic // So called greatest rappers in need of some phonics“). Sometimes people act like they’re moving forward, but ultimately they’re moving in reverse. The first 3 tracks were good for me… until it got to the 4th, “Brand New World“. Couldn’t make it half way through without skipping onto the familiar “Watch Ya Back“. Striving to move forward and reach their goals of success… and if they don’t make it, the slightly aggressive Stars tell you to watch your back. The following track, “No Fear“, wasn’t something I could get into. Repping their hood is all good by me, but this track definitely wasn’t for my tastes. Felt a little sloppy and the beat was weak (maybe it’s just me). Moving on, there’s always that one track that’s about tits-and-ass and one night stands… and that’s “Keeper“. “Never Let You Go” comes next and instead of being a hit-it-and-quit-it song like “Keeper”, this song goes beyond sex and into feelings for a girl. Going into that same direction is “Rock Steady” — the fellas put in more emotion and personal stories, allowing themselves to be open and vulnerable. “Waste of Potential” weaves between doubt and hope, but “We Can Make It” reassures that there shouldn’t be any worries and that they can make it no matter the obstacles (“We gon’ make it to the top // Once we get it, then it’s locked // Then it’s never gonna stop“). Hopping into the bonus tracks, we heard “Diamendz” at the end of the “Watch Ya Back” video, and Safe was seen. “Intermission” isn’t much of a break. The first half of the song puts down other rappers… and the second half is in spanish, so I’m not sure what that says fully. Staying focused and living life to the fullest, “Hourglass” (by S.C.G.) is about how time is passin’ by us and we should take advantage of it. “Boss Status” (by Jochi) speaks for itself, no bullshit. Initially, I thought “Be My Girl” (by O.B.) was on the sweet side, trying to get close to a special lady, but I was informed that it’s actually about pimping (haha, shit). On some what’cha waiting for style… the bounce in “Betta Come Get It” (by Safe) tells you to stop sleeping and get yours. And lastly, “Beautiful Ladies” is a shoutout to all the women of the world.

Overall, there were a few tracks that I didn’t like (“Brand New World”, “No Fear”, “Keeper”, and “Boss Status”), but the mixtape was a good mix of tracks to help the listener get to know the guys and their music.

The mixtape is available in the form of a free download, but they have places where you can purchase the album, if you wanna do that. - Crayon Beats


Upon hearing the name M.O.B.Stars, thoughts of organized crime and tailor-made suits may spring to mind. Within the context of a hip-hop crew from Paterson, NJ, it means something altogether different. Broken down as an acronym, M.O.B.Stars stands for Maintaining Our Brothers, Stayin’ Totally Alert Revolutionary Style. It’s an unwieldy definition, but certainly one that catches rap fans off-guard. All throughout II S.O.S., the lyrical content of this hip-hop quartet is bound to keep people on their toes. Even the album’s title is a tightly packed message, standing for Substance Over Swag. Today’s hip-hop climate suggests that there is always room for more swag, whether it comes in the form of material items or 16 bars of verbal braggadocio. However, the substance is there just the same, and II S.O.S. finds these brothers juggling a varied assortment of topics.

Jochi, O.B., SaFE, and S.C.G. move towards the metaphysical on “Mind Body Spirit,” pushing past societal assumptions and focusing on knowledge of self. Vansbeats cooks up a tasty backing track for the four to spit over, featuring a lilting flute sample threaded through crisp snares and bass thumps. On “Backwards,” their observation of “too many things in life oxymoronic” fuels their need to work through the frustration of it all. “Brave New World” attempts to tackle the bigger picture of media distractions, man-made disasters, and evolving technology within the hands of a demoralized humanity. It’s extremely rich food for thought and the lyrical entrees are made more palatable due to some addictive production. Arkutec provides beats for almost half of the album and each one is headphone gold. “Diamendz” chops up Shirley Bassey’s vocals into wafer-thin slices, letting them fall onto a bed of suspenseful strings. “Intermission” is damn near deadly as a hypnotic flute gets looped and reversed over a basic kick-snare combo and sonic ambience to fill in the gaps.

While M.O.B.Stars will debate conspiracy theories for hours, it won’t take five minutes to figure out where they stand when it comes to women. “Keeper” makes no bones about the fact that things won’t go further than the bedroom, but “Never Let You Go” follows shortly afterwards. It almost acknowledges the lurid nature of the previous selection within the second verse: “I know I talked a lot of shit on other songs, but it’s ‘cause I never thought a chick like you would come along.” Jochi goes solo on “Boss Status” and dissects the pimp/ho dichotomy on a track littered with dialogue from blaxploitation classic The Mack. Meanwhile, O.B. steps to a sister with love talk on “Be My Girl,” but considering that the song ends with more dialogue from The Mack, it’s safe to say that the relationship will mirror “Boss Status” sooner rather than later. Even with all this back and forth, “Beautiful Ladies” sounds sunny and from the heart rather than the loins. Producer Big Boy makes good use of a Lee Fields cut as his programmed drums coast on the original track’s poignant strings and plaintive crooning.

M.O.B.Stars reflects rap music’s present-day grit while reflecting the luster of the genre’s golden age. There is certainly more substance than swag on II S.O.S., but it’s not necessarily a bad thing when the opulent obsessions of the group show up. There is a place for both within the music and this group manages to strike the right balance. “Waste of Potential” deals directly with the need to express what’s inside wrestling against an industry’s expectations for hard posturing and materialistic means. Featuring absolutely stellar production and verbal dexterity, II S.O.S. will make sure that your head is filled with plenty to think about while you’re nodding it to the beat.


Review by Jason Randall Smith
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
- Ariel Publicity


Discography

Trakk Blazers Presents: M.O.B.Stars - Tripartite Pact - 2008

II S.O.S. (The Product of Substance Over Swag) - 2010

Spring Collection Vol. 1 - August 2011

Photos

Bio

M.O.B.Stars

“Unabashed creativity”, “unapologetic honesty”, “revolutionary minded youth wizards!” These are only a few phrases that encapsulate the hip-hop super group M.O.B.Stars— Maintaining Our Brothers, Stayin' Totally Alert Revolutionary Style. M.O.B.Stars musical group combine vivid language, vocabulary, energy, and charisma seen by no other— track, after track. Rooted from Paterson, NJ, M.O.B.Stars successfully encapsulates the sounds of the city and the heartbeat of the nation. “They say what we all think and feel, but are afraid to express”. The M.O.B. is composed of four dedicated members who illuminate both collectively and individually.

Jochi is described as the more artistic of the bunch. While quiet in his personal demeanor, the dynamic combination of his worldview and passion for life tells a different story. Lyrically, Jochi enriches his poetic rhythms with many of his own personal expressions from his environment to deliver a sound that is always honest and inviting to the ears of true listeners.

The next organ to the M.O.B. goes by many names— Taliban Triple, Triple Letter, and the most widely known Silk City Genius, or the shortened S.C.G. S.C.G.’s lyrics, which clearly illustrate the knowledge of a true scholar, show that his name is not just a catchy acronym. His delivery is a cross between the lyricism of AZ with energy and a vocal texture too often compared with 2Pac. S.C.G. doesn’t let these large names falter him as he is his own man in the truest sense. Those who crave intellectual hip-hop where the dynamics of the sound match the level of wisdom embrace the presence of S.C.G.

Where to begin with the next member, O.B.? O.B. is the shortened version of another acronym O.B.I.E. — One Brother in Evolution. After spending his teenage years through the streets of Paterson under the alias O.B., O transferred the name into his hip-hop career and added a degree of righteousness aspires to reaching. Often characterized as a head figure of the group, O does more to keep everyone in the family motivated and strong musically; allowing them to feed off the energy he brings. Musically, he is as diligent as he is talented. His fluid changes in vocal patterns, drawls and lyrical deliveries can make him sound like Black Thought, Nas, Kanye, or Talib Kweli. With a “yet-to-see-soon-to-come” catalog that rivals three greatest hits albums and scattered collaborations forthcoming, O.B. will soon prove to be a formidable musical force.

The last and newest member is SaFE. SaFE, which is an acronym of his New Era fitted cap size, Seven and Five Eighths, is truly an emcee's emcee. His should-be-patented lyrical delivery is enjoyed and respected by hip-hop connoisseurs it for its brazen originality. With influences ranging from KRS-One to Lupe Fiasco to MF Doom, SaFE fills the void in listeners who have lost their place in hip-hop culture over time due to rigid norms. Conflicted with body image, bouts with self-esteem, and disdain for life's conventional path among other things, SaFE reminds his listeners to be true to themselves and to always aim high and always uses himself as the model.

Fans and first-time listeners of M.O.B.Stars are always guaranteed a musical masterpiece that will force them to make educated conclusions of the world around them. Despite the cynicism often thrown at grassroots independent artists, The M.O.B. continues to shine and elevate musically and are poised to be the next greats and break new ground in hip-hop.