On the intro track of West Coast duo, Substance Abuse’s Background Music a female voice exclaims, “they sound totally throwback, like 1998.” This is either a little jab at people who overuse the word throwback (the lady’s tone sort of suggests so), or perhaps it means that they haven’t changed their sound since ’98, the year they dropped their debut EP. Either way, Substance Abuse (tied with Greg Porn as the most Google-proof name in hip-hop) walks a tightrope on the fine line of nostalgia hip-hop and dated flows, concepts, and production.

Substance Abuse features two MCs, Subz and Eso Tre, and they are both average-at-best MCs. On “How Many” the two showcase their mediocrity by attempting a double-time flow over an up-tempo beat. The two struggle with flows throughout the album, but they don’t really have any presence on the microphone either (Subz especially). For the most part, the album’s production is solid, if not unimaginative. One of the album’s best beats, “Young Hollywood,” is squandered by a lame song concept (underground rappers griping about how shallow and pathetic people are in Hollywood, complete with dated-Kevin Federline references).

What’s most puzzling about Substance Abuse and Background Music is the fact that they were able to acquire guest features from the likes of KRS-One, MC Eiht and Tash (of Tha Alkaholiks). Their 2006 album also featured names like MF DOOM, Kool Keith and Rasco, so obviously someone likes these guys. The album’s lone song I would consider “very good” is “West Los,” which features a swooping bass line and frantic sirens during one of the album’s best hooks. But for the most part, at its best Background Music  is average and forgettable, and at its worst, Substance Abuse comes off amateurish, despite their big name co-signs.

– Zach Gase


  • ol skool

    The only thing amateurish that can be attributed to this album is the new booty hip hop fans would try to review a genre that they came into late in the game. Don’t believe the hype.

  • Nofratrap

    How does okayplayer allow a frat rapper who makes sounds like this gooseohio.bandcamp dot com to review hip hop? Check out substanceabusehiphop dot com and decide for yourself who’s “amateur.”

  • c’mon guy

    What a BS write up for this album. Obviously Zach Gase has no idea what the F he is talking about. This is Zach Gase the reviewers music http://gooseohio.bandcamp dot com

    What’s puzzling to me is how okayplayer is letting him review hip hop at all! How’d you sneak your crap releases past them? I mean I can see why they haven’t reviewed any of Zach’s releases the score would probably be in the negatives.

  • Buyer’s Remorse

    If the song “Young Hollywood” is about the fleeting nature of fame, doesn’t it make sense to allude to someone like K-Fed who, by all accounts, has receded from the limelight? Saying that’s “dated” seems to be missing the point.

    Also, “double time” is not the same thing as rapping fast. You’re using terms of art incorrectly and it shows you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    Overproof got some pretty high accolades. If you feel confident in your conviction that these guys are “amateurs” and you claim to be a rapper, then I say battle them. No offense homie, but judging by the link to your music below, I don’t think you’d last too long.