Although gangsta rap and hyphy music hog all the press, there has always been a steady undercurrent of positive and progressive hip-hop from California, with artists like The Pharcyde, The Hieroglyphics and Jurrasic 5 usually delivering much better product than their more popular West Coast counterparts. Underground veterans The Visionaries are no different and their fourth LP, We Are The Ones (We’ve Been Waiting For) delivers the goods.
The crew, made up of 2Mex, LMNO, Lord Zen, Dannu, KeyKool and DJ Rhettmatic, finds five members on the mic, two behind the boards and one on the turntables. Their introspective and social lyrics (which often touch upon their differing backgrounds and ethnicities), combined with outside production by the likes of Madlib, Kev Brown, DJ Khalil and J-Rocc of the Beat Junkies, create a decidedly old-school feel.
On “All Right,” produced by the late J Dilla, The Visionaries reflect on life’s hardships over a soulful baby piano and horn sample. “Crop Circles” is a percussion-driven ode to breakdancing, while “All We Need” and “4wd Motion” are the resident bangers, with The Visionaries displaying their lyrical prowess.
Although some songs lean on the boring side, and the massive posse cut “Need To Learn” (with RBX, Rakaa from Dilated Peoples, Brother J from X-Clan, and Sadat X) doesn’t live up to the hype, We Are The Ones is still a very solid release that showcases a less seen side of California hip-hop.