Haiku D’Etat Coup De Theatre

[Project Blowed/Decon; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: West Coast underground hip hop
Others: Freestyle Fellowship, Blackalicious, ATU

Aceyalone, Mikah 9, and Abstract Rude are some of the most respected names in West Coast underground hip hop. Nearly five years ago, they teamed up to form powerful and impressive trio named Haiku D'Etat. Their self-titled effort was praised by most fans of underground hip hop, and naturally, after getting a few solo projects out of the way, the Freestyle Fellowship vets and Abstract Tribe Unique star come together once again.

There's always been a relatively clear distinction between what West Coast fans consider important and what East Coast fans do. On the West Coast, a strong emphasis is placed on cadence and voice, whereas back East, what's actually being said, the lyrics, garner most attention and basis for appreciation. Aceyalone, Mikah 9, and Abstract Rude are all products of this way of thinking, and it's quite possible they have a large part in the actual presence of such a distinction. What the three emcees may lack in punchlines, witticisms, and clever quips, they more than make up for in the cadence and voice categories. Mikah 9 in particular has been known to raise a few eyebrows with his seemingly out-of-this-world flow, even if eyebrows remain low and disgruntled when strictly examining his lyrics.

With Coup De Theatre, the trio claims "jazz, poetry, and soul," but they don't exactly live up to these standards. Even in hip hop terms, the lyrics are far from poetry. They opt to talk about how they are poetic rather than just taking that valuable time to prove it. The production does come off jazz-oriented, handled appropriately by Fat Jack, a seasoned producer of jazz inflected hip hop. As far as soul goes, all the emcees do sing with a fair amount. They are far more successful in passion than they are substance -- song topics are usually horse corpses for these guys.

The always-expected posse cut (another West Coast underground staple) "Top Qualified" features Lateef, Lyrics Born, and Blackalicious. The track is basically a showcase for the unmatched abilities of Lateef and Lyrics Born who do their best to outshine the entire album in the couple of minutes they were brought in to occupy.

Haiku D'Etat remains one of the most pleasurable combinations of performers in underground hip hop, but this sophomore effort won't receive the mutterings of "classic" that the original did. The album shows us three emcees at the pinnacle of their respective careers, but they now lack the naiveté that worked so well for them on the first release.

1. Intro
2. Mike, Aaron and Eddie
3. Kats
4. Dogs
5. Stoic Response
6. Transitions & Eras
7. All Good Things
8. Poetry Takeover
9. Triumvirate
10. Top Qualified
11. Coup De Theatre
12. Built 2 Last
13. Untitled

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