Contrary to popular belief there was a time when lyricism was valued over “likes” on the web. A time when aspiring emcees laid down classic material or “M.C Hammer-ed” their way to the mainstream. Your skills had to be tight; your pants baggy, and Skytel Pagers couldn’t deliver hate to your rival’s social medias comment section. The Source was the bible. You had a crush on Big Lex and or Ananda, and you dreamed about the opportunity to witness the “Ed Lover Dance” in person. Rappers would hibernate in studios, and damn near embalm themselves with blunt smoke and liquor searching for the next uptown anthem. There are a few who believe nostalgia should be the norm. Tone Chop and Frost Gamble are in that number.
Tone Chop and Frost Gamble serve us with their latest project “Respect is Earned Not Given.” This album contains several subterranean songs showcasing their fanaticism for hip-hop’s foundation. The outstanding “Walk the Walk” features the legendary “Kool G Rap” of the brilliant album “4, 5, 6”. G-Rap blesses us with a verse about still living that “Fast Life” and promising anybody who challenges him will be doomed to singing those “Ill Street Blues.” Tone Chop holds his own taking these newcomers to task; challenging their longevity, and making sure they respect the authenticity in his audio. Frost Gamble utilizing an Inspectah Deck lyric from “The Art of Chess Boxing” makes clear that there is no fraudulence in the frequency of his production. On ‘Bing Stories” Frost chops a sample worthy of a Godfather flick with Chop telling a tale of copping contraband for a cutie and falling victim to an armed robbery. Applause for the art of storytelling that has been an integral part of the art form since the days of Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.”
The bouncy head nodding “Passion” is an homage to the time of shell toes and sheep coats; as Tone raps about how he loved the art then, and is even more committed to it today. Gamble lays down delicate pianos over shattering boom-bap on “In the Streets.” Tone reminisces about cipha’s on corners, and trying to master verbs, nouns, and adjectives in search of that next quotable. Delivering a fair one to the competition is the subject of “Get Beat Down.” Frost rounds out the track with menacing horns and a B.D.P sample from the single “My Philosophy.”
On songs like “Its Hip-hop” and “Beat-Knocking” Tone Chop makes it clear that he’s her to resurrect some of the founding practices of hip-hop, and that your current chart position will not save you. Chop dumps verses on the current status quo. On “Guillotine Chop” Tone Chop and Planet Asia administer deboning bars and filleting flows over Frost’s superior production; which includes samples from the GZA and the late great Phife Dog of “A Tribe Called Quest.”
“Here I Go” features Tragedy Khadafi of “Arrest the President” fame. (How poignant) Tragedy and Tone exhibit verbal dominance while clowning current acts. Frost provides a great sample that reminds me of “Win or Lose” by Mobb Deep. Tone Chop shows his softer side on the track “See You Again.” Chop pays tribute to the loss of a loved one.
“Respect is Earned Not Given” is a great album, but that’s not a surprise to me. When two individuals decide to be committed to being curators of the culture, and are fanatical about prioritizing the art form over fame and funds…it shines in the work.