True to their name, on their highly anticipated self-titled debut, rap trio Random Axe, i.e. Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, and Sean Price, have an axe to grind. The trajectory of said axe: somewhere in the direction of rap foes, peons, womenfolk, disrespecters, and those that should’ve heeded the demand to give up the cash when asked. Black Milk, fresh off 2010’s acclaimed Album of the Year, and Stones Throw rhymesayer Simpson rep Detroit and Price, of Brooklyn’s Boot Camp Clik and Heltah Skeltah, put their cities and rap rings together Wonder Twins-style to mete out aggressive rhymes over fascinating beats that suggest they’d put in a bid for hardest rap triumvirate on the hardcore scene.

Random Axe politic about street life and dreams of semi-opulence over attractive Black Milk-produced beats in a straightforward, brash manner. They trade bars and witticisms that recall the kind of taunting one would find as a kid: finger pointing, raucous-laughing, I’m bigger than you so what can you do-kinda stuff. On “Never Back Down,” Guilty Simpson raps: “Who gives a fuck who your hero is/I’ll give that nigga a nice view of himself where he can see both lids.” See? And there’s a litany of Sean Price punchlines to this effect. On “Monster Babies” he goes: “Niggas say you a fool Ruckus/Sniff coke and punch niggas through school buses.” He spews on the bouncy, glittering “The Karate Kid” this: “My right hook’ll give you a large dent/On the side of your face for fuckin with Clark Kent” then “Ill shit son, what the shotty did/Leg broke, Will Smith son the Karate Kid.”

Black Milk’s production is probably the most positive (feeling-wise) attribute of the album, even though the beats are moody, dark, and gritty. The soul samples are latent; he makes interesting use of ethereal sounds, church claps, and skewed vocal sound bites. The outros are almost always captivating. The drums are crisp and arranged in a way that’s complimentary to all three emcees’ cadences and respective deliveries. There are features by Fat Ray, Roc Marciano, Melanie Rutherford, Danny Brown, Fatt Father, Detroit’s Trick Trick, and Heltah Skeltah’s Rock, and they add to their respective songs in a way that ups the vibe Random Axe are going for. Yet, the songs work best when they’re a claustrophobic three-man affair.

On the rallying-call cut “Random Call,” Price summarizes the content on Random Axe: “No love letter rhymes and raps about chicks/Just a whole lotta druggin and thuggin–that’s it.” Random Axe don’t break the mold on this album, but they are sure to make stalwart fans of each individual rapper happy with a release that’s thematically consistent if not repetitive and evocative of the three’s surefire chemistry. The axe? Sharpened and on the grind with these guys.

-Niela Orr


  • Chea!

    A 78 tho? Really? That is not even conveyed in the review. WTF? My only problem with the album was how short it was. Too many interlude type tracks. One minute tracks irritate me to no end. Of course, what made these tracks real downers was the heat Black Milk put on the beat. One minute, then on to the next track. No bueno. Still, not a C type record.

  • Kidtruth

    Maybe a C. I enjoyed the album, but Sean Price and Guilt both have the issue of being “on button” rappers: you put a mic in front of them and they rap. Except, they only have the one dimension, so it is up to Black Milk to supply the atmosphere and ambience. Sometimes it works, and Milk sounds like a more accessible Madlib. Sometimes it doesnt. On the more musical beats like Monster Babies or Random Call they sound great, and on the simpler beats I get a little bored. Still worth checking out, I would probably give this a strong B.

  • lungile

    78??? Come on OKAYPLAYER!! 85 at least, Random Axe is for the kids!!!!

  • Chea!

    Definitely not a C album, not an A album as well. 78 seems to be a bit off considering the glowing review. But, hey, what do I know? Shite was way too short. People always complain about Em; however, he never hits you with a short arse track. Sometimes I want to let the track ride a bit. Hard to do when it is a minute long.

  • MJ

    I only checkout okp’s reviews for the entertainment value! Their ratings are always so off. The only reason I visit the site anymore. Comical!

  • yo

    …how is it not an A album though? for me this is black coming full circle from the b.r. gunna days: bangin beats, ill hooks, and, most importantly, a whole range of lyrical talent. i agree it’s a little shorter than i might have liked.. but i don’t know that i would call that a legitimate criticism. brevity is a virtue