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TWENTY NINE YEAR OLD Ellery Chambers wants to take you through some chambers you may find familiar. The spiritual roughneck who is more popularly known as Buddha Monk is officially the first out of the gate from the Brooklyn Zoo, a kind of Wu Tang offshoot of extra rowdy lyricists, and his message of spiritual order in physical chaos should ring a few bells.
Yeah, you've heard it before -- in one form or another, this vaguely pro-Black sentiment and anti-devil message has graced almost every album bearing either the symbol of the Shaolin rhyme scheme or one of its members as a guest. While appearing a bit wilder than its Staten Island counterparts, what does the Brooklyn Zoo in general and Buddha Monk in particular bring to the table?
The answer is simple: they sound good. Buddha seems to have learned lessons his master hasn't always shown, in studying under Big Baby Jesus/ODB/Your Name Here about "keep an uptempo flow, don't rhyme too fast, and hit hard," and generally giving a solid aural performance. Likewise, his crewmates (most notably "Ma-lik the Drun-ken Draa-gon!") give clear and well rehearsed performances on Buddha's new LP, The Prophecy, as well as having a solid sense of music from years behind the wheels of steel.
"It's a whole new era with the Buddha Monk," says our man in Brooklyn, who cut his teeth on videos with Mariah Carey and appearances on Ol' Dirty's solo album. "My addiction to hip hop is to let people know what it's really about. I'm bringin' hip hop to the way it used to be, lyrical skills. I talk about shit that really happened. Not just singin' a hook and a rhyme that don't make no sense. Stuff that makes common sense that even a baby could understand, but yet people forgot about those things, ridin' around in Benzes."
Now, never mind how many other MCs have said they were "taking it back to the way it used to be," or what have you -- somewhere in the New Label Signee handbook it must demand that anyone whose style isn't completely brand new (Bone, Twista, Ras Kass, 40, etc.) has to explain themselves.
Of the hordes of "Wu and Who?" soundalike records, this is easily a top five choice (The first Wu as #1, GZA as #2, Ghostface as #3, Sunz of Man a surprise at #4, then this) in terms of lyrical construction and general musicianship. Songs like the sample driven "Life's A Scheme" to the haunting piano line in "Killa From The Villa" to the catchy chorus on "Spark Somebody Up," Buddha Monk has some solid songmaking skills that satisfy again and again.
"They got all this Puffy shit on the radio," Buddha preaches, "all this other kind of stuff, people talkin' about 'put it in your mouth' and all kinds of stuff, you gon' make me lyrically spark somebody up! They keep it on this Cristal poppin' ... it ain't just Puffy and them, most everybody in this industry is Moet'ed down. Why you gotta status drink and front all the time? Don't front for me, don't front for the camera. I'm an artist like they an artist, and I know everyday they ain't got it like that. They try to act like they more than what they are. On that note right there alone, people should respect what I'm doin.'"
Come on through the chambers and cages of the Brooklyn Zoo (a group product headed by BBJ on all forms of addiction called "Drugs" is next, Buddha manages himself and wants to do a show in your town, hit him up at 718-773-5098) -- you've been to zoos before, but there's always something to enjoy, and maybe something to learn.