The official version of Mars Ill's third full-length project Pro*Pain finally hits streets 20 months after its initially proposed release date in 2004. Although JfH had originally reviewed its initial mix here, the final version is a slightly more streamlined version of the original, deleting a few minor samples due to copyright issues, while featuring two brand-new tracks in exchange. Although I expected a moderate-to-major overhaul for most tracks on Pro*Pain, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the songs remained unaltered from their excellent original mix. Highlights such as "Sound Off," "Stand Back And Watch," and "Effortless" retain their sonic edginess and innovative beats, while songs such as "Wicked Ways" even managed to keep their main hook sample intact in the process.
Although not every track escaped untouched, the changes, for the most part, are subtle. For example, "Say So" is missing only its "Throw up your hands" opening sample while retaining its assuredness and swagger as Pro*Pain's opening track. Other songs, such as "Dog Eared Page," however suffer slightly from the changes, with its distinctive sampled hook ("In the annals of rap / I'm on the Dog Eared Page") replaced by a complete re-recording that somehow loses the spunk of the original. These changes are minor, however, and don't affect the overall excellence of the album. Each track still bursts with exuberance and retain all of the elements that fans have come to love about Mars Ill: unparalleled rapping from manCHILD and versatile beats from Dust.
Where the final version redeems itself, however, is in the inclusion of two brand-new songs that Dust and manCHILD have managed to include on the new version. The first addition, "Too Strong To Change," easily establishes itself as one of the strongest songs on Pro*Pain's already impressive tracklist. Featuring Cappadonna of the legendary hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, it bumps along to a series of dirty beats and bluesy guitar licks, while being solidly anchored by a melodic chorus. Its overall sound could have easily fit on the equally impressive Pirate Radio.
The second new song, "Glam Rap," is another strong addition. Featuring veteran rapper Prince Po of Organized Konfusion, "Glam Rap" is another swirling mix of guitars, horns, and stuttered beats that Dust is getting way too good at putting together and making sound great. The sacrifices made to accommodate these two new additions are minor, with the deletion of two tracks - the filler "Loud!" and the catchy, but lightweight "Moment" being my two least-favorite tracks on the original Pro*Pain anyway.
So, although I am still partial to the original mixes of a few mentioned tracks ("Dog Eared Page" being the most obvious example), I would have to concede that this version of Pro*Pain is indeed superior to the original. The inclusion of two brand-new tracks made an already strong album even stronger and they stand side-by-side with some of the best songs this veteran rap duo has ever written. Mars Ill is the best thing Christian rap has going for it right now and they have produced, without a doubt, the best hip-hop album of 2006!- Review date: 7/23/06, written by Sherwin Frias
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