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Review: Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson

Strong Arm Steady - In Search Of Stoney Jackson

(date of release: January 27, 2010)

With approximately several thousand albums and mixtapes released during the
summer, fall and the oh-so-precious fourth quarter of any given year (most of
which eventually serve as a beer coaster or weed tray the following year), it’s
become much too easy to dismiss or even forget about a disc released shortly
after the New Year’s confetti ends up in the landfill. While the same thing can be

said for films released before Memorial Day, hip-hop albums tend to fall victim to
an already fickle audience whose short-term memory rivals that of Leonard Shelby’s.
Such is the case with Strong Arm Steady’s “In Search Of Stoney Jackson.” It seems
like every journalist and blogger was ready to submit their “Best of 2010” lists as
soon as ‘Ye unleashed his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so perhaps it was an
innocent, unintentional omission - after all, Freeway x Jake One’s “The Stimulus Package
and Roc Marciano’s “Marcberg,” released in March and May 2010 respectively, were
excellent albums that received a few mentions. However, “Stoney Jackson” was
noticeably absent across the board. entered it as #19 on their Top 40
Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2010 and the GOD DJ Premier considered it to be one of the
top 3 albums of the year, but for the most part, no one invited Strong Arm Steady to the
big dance. And that’s an injustice.


If there was a labor union for West Coast MC’s, Phil Da Agony, Krondon, and Mitchy
would be the de facto delegates, the epitome of “no days off.” Madlib, the diabolical
“Beat Konduckta,” is an enigma; he’s as comfortable dabbling with hip-hop and R&B as
he is with dub, jazz, and Brazilian bossa nova, and every composition is a testament to
his eclectic and diverse style. It was fellow Cali representer DJ Babu (of the World Famous
Beat Junkies) who conceived what would become a collaborative effort partnering SAS’s
spit game
with Madlib’s chop-heavy, psychedelic lo-fi distortion.

From the moment the LP begins with the sublime “Best of Times,” the influence of the
Jaylib sessions (Madlib and the late, great J Dilla) is evident, with Madlib reworking the
same sample Dilla flipped for Common’s “Love Is …” Phil Da Agony’s free-association,
almost conversational flow sets off the track, while Krondon’s urgent search for peace of
mind sounds right at home, allowing Phontè (of Little Brother) to preach the gospel via
hook and verse. ‘Lib uses the same formula on “Chittlins & Pepsi,” tweaking the sample
Dilla utilized on “Airworks” to let Phil and frequent SAS collaborator Planet Asia promote
the virtues of healthy living via nutrition. “Stoney Jackson” covers a range of topics, from
upward mobility, true love, and even dental hygiene. The album is a family affair, with guests
including Fashawn, Evidence, Talib Kweli, Guilty Simpson, and Madlib’s Stones Throw
labelmates Oh No and Roc C, among others.

There’s not a second of dead air on the whole disc; each track segues into the next as
seamlessly as one would expect a Madlib collage to do. Of course, there is some filler
- tracks like “Ambassadors” are a slight drag, and some interludes require steady nerves
and may deafen most iPod users - but overall, the CD bangs. “True Champs” featuring
Montage One, Evidence, Oh No & Roc C, lives up to its name as each MC goes for broke
like its the October pennant season. “Needle In The Haystack” doesn’t even have any
members of SAS, instead allowing Roscoe and Guilty Simpson to handle the job, which
they do admirably.

“In Search of Stoney Jackson” may be too unique or subterranean for casual listeners,
but it definitely deserved greater consideration as one of 2010’s finest offerings. Very
rare is an album that allows one to hit play and let it ride sans the fast forward button.
As cool as the brothers of Strong Arm Steady seem to be, I’m almost positive that they
would actually appreciate having some Cali medicinal crushed up on their jewel case;
just pay homage to dopeness, pop the CD in the deck and bump that while twistin’ up.


Strong Arm Steady w/Phonte - Best of Times

String Arm Steady feat. Planet Asia - Chitlins and Pepsi

Strong Arm Steady feat. Slick Jacken and Mitchy Slick - Pressure

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