Music with a socio-political slant is always going to garner attention—both praise and criticism—and War II (the turd hunt continues…) will be no exception. This follow-up compilation to War (it feels good, do it!), put together by DJs of Mass Destruction, is about as socially and politically charged as music can get. The album is a scathing commentary on affairs in America and abroad, and none of the musicians pull any punches when it comes to George “Dubya” Bush. It’s compelling, thought-provoking, and sometimes frightening, but ultimately, like with all controversial music, it’s the quality of the song themselves that dictate the impact the album will have, and that’s where War II’s weaknesses lie.
The album has fourteen tracks from various artists. The three tracks from DJs of Mass Destruction themselves are not so much songs as they are a collection audio clips put together with trippy beats and shuddering sound experiments. “Shut Up & Listen” is amusing, with its fantastically asinine Bush quotes that’ll get you to root for any DJ that has the balls to make Bush choke on his “flip-flop” campaign he used during the last presidential election, but again, it’s not really a song. A good number of the tracks from the other artists are similarly afflicted.
The two songs that really shine are “Same Year, Different Number,” and “He Got Game/Fuck the War.” “Same Year, Different Number,” by Will Villainova, is a chilly groove with the best lyrics on the album. Villainova’s low, syncopated vocals are lulling, yet brim with power and defiance as he flows about everything from the war in Iraq to the war on drugs to the Patriot Act and the government’s war against our own citizens. After discovering that Villainova’s official web sites have all been removed (his MySpace page was still up when I last checked), I couldn’t help but ponder his lines, “Hip hop police watching me / People need to watch what they say up in the cellphone / ’cause Big Brother is eavesdropping / hearing my lyrics while the beat’s popping…”
“He Got Game/Fuck the War,” is a remix of a live Public Enemy track. It carries the most energy of any number on the album: even white boys gotta shout and clap their hands when Public Enemy yells “fuck the war!” over the guitar riff from Buffalo Springfield’s classic protest song “For What it’s Worth.”
The remainder of the tracks are a mix of mellow hip hop songs and sound collages you’d sooner expect to find on a soundtrack for a David Lynch movie. The most unnerving of these tracks is “Number 3 on Flt 11: a dirge,” which mixes disturbing 9-11 audio tracks over creepy synth textures and sound effects.
The overall, pervading tone of the album is unabashedly dark and creepy. If you’re looking for up-beat and danceable hip hop tracks, you won’t like War II, but on the other hand, if you’re looking to make some noise and finally get yourself on the FBI watch list, then buy this album now.