Panacea The Scenic Route

[Rawkus/Glow-in-the-Dark; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

Styles:  hip-hop
Others: Little Brother, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Star

If Rawkus is attempting to recapture the spirit of its late-’90s heyday (before a gruesome implosion that expedited hip-hop’s Diddy-fication), it’s got a promising find in D.C.-based Panacea. Emcee Raw Poetic and producer K-Murdock aren’t exactly Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek, but Panacea imbue their sophomore album, The Scenic Route, with an infectious blend of street-corner philosophizing and Native Tongues-inspired charm. Raw Poetic flows like a poor man’s Gift of Gab or early-era Common, but without those emcees’ instinct for one-liners or manipulation of syllables. Instead, he’s frequently so low in the mix that what he says between hooks becomes irrelevant. The real showpiece here is the shape-shifting, kaleidoscopic production of K-Murdock. One minute he’s doing his best 9th-Wonder impersonation with a soaring soul sample (“Bubble”), the next minute he’s taking you on a tour of the universe at trip-hop speeds (“Between Earth and Sky”). Panacea just want you to enjoy the ride no matter where it goes.

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