Knowa Lazarus is a Filipino master wordsmith born and raised in Queens, but is now resident on both coasts with a base in Glendale, California as well. At the age of 16 he accidentally fell into MCing, but he has certainly learned to work it and can come with some heat. He is also the co-founder of Q-York Entertainment which is the label which has released his debut LP.
Two hundred years ago Jose Rizal was a hero in the Philippines as he was a highly educated freedom fighter if you like. Knowa Lazarus has entitled his debut LP Jose Rizal for several reasons. First and foremost is his ambition to raise the profile of his people and let more people know about his history, next is in homage to the great man and finally I guess he would see himself built in the same mould.
The CD gets going with the absolutely banging Jose Rizal Intro which sets up a rowdy vibe and gets a bit of info out about Jose. Talk Gon’ Round is an obvious selection for club play with Knowa dropping a flow specifically tailored to the beat. The electric guitar gives the track a lot of power and when the riffs are let go for the chorus you know any audience would start moshing.
Black Out drops with an equally head nodding beat, but on a gentler vibe. Production is divided between a few producers and this catchy track with bendy Moog type keys is put together with Flav. Flav also produces Get Up, which ,with its distorted bass, ticking hi-hats, digerydoo and sung chorus by Maneeka continues the powerful opening to the LP. Kowa Lazarus flitters from subject to subject for a song which is not particularly focussed.
Producer T.H.E. touches the boards for It’s Crazy and changes up the vibe for a really mellowed out and soulful track in which Knowa Lazarus tell us of his days growing up, drifting from place to place to crash at night. Despite this it is a tale of success ending in his move to the West Coast and working on building his business empire.
The main vibe of the CD though is a modern club by bounce sound and Hater Aid brings back the acieed type bassline and big beat for a deceptively catchy track with minimal vocals to begin with. The delicately delivered raps send a message to all the haters that it doesn’t matter if they keep on with the hating because Knowa has confidence in himself and it doesn’t really matter what people say!
Other jump up tracks include Whas Really Hood, and the hypnotic I Gotsta Go which, with its strummed guitar riff adds the chirpsing element for the girls.
Whereas more thoughtful and emotional tracks include Let It All Out and Translations is a track in which Knowa does the love rap thing and raps to his girl over a light weight acoustic guitar beat. He tries to bring in the Filipino culture and influences in an attempt to educate the audience. This is especially evident in his call to arms for his peoples on Filipino Anthem.
On the educational side tracks including Divide & Conquer drop real knowledge about history and show that Knowa has a mission behind his work, one of which is to bring people together and to spread respect of others cultures. On The Past Life Knowa pictures himself in the midst of a war and drops some graphic lines.
This is a pretty decent album which spans a variety of styles, but perhaps doesn’t go that extra mile to be a great LP. The enhanced CD contains additional footage, including the Good Night (Lost in the Tide) Hurricane Katrina tribute music video. Unfortunately the enhanced CD bit didn’t work properly on my system, but I was able to view the videos anyway which were pretty low resolution and therefore a touch disappointing. Regardless that is the only real negative.