Never one to be out of your CD players for too long, hip hop duo Mars ILL comes back with a new project to bob your head to. In the vein of artists like TobyMac and Linkin Park, Mars ILL have taken their 2006 album Pro*Pain and remixed the beats to every track. In addition to that, the finished product, entitled Slow Flame, contains two brand new songs, as well as the songs cut from the original 2004 version of Pro*Pain as a CD-rom bonus.
It's a strange album to listen to the first time through. If you're familiar enough with Pro*Pain, it becomes almost difficult to picture those lyrics with any other beat. So the opening beats of "Say So" seem somewhat awkward, as with a lot of the other tracks as well. But when manCHILD's skillful lyrics come into play, you feel back at home. And it's nice that 99.9% of the vocals are unchanged, so you can still rap along without missing a beat. There are, however, slight changes made to accomodate the new music. A good example is the chorus of "Too Strong To Change," which features the same lyrics, just sung a little bit differently. Unfortunately for that song, Cappadonna's guest appearance is still as weak as it was on Pro*Pain.
Another notable plus for Slow Flame is that portions of the lyrics are a little easier to understand. It seems either the music is slightly quieter, or they turned up the vocals. Either way, it's nice to hear more of what manCHILD has to say. At the same time, for the most part, the samples that were seemingly non-understandable the first time aren't any easier this time around.
The first of the two new tracks, "Feelin' So High," seems almost a little out of place, just because it comes in after what was Pro*Pain's outro. But the song has the Mars ILL strength that fans of theirs look for. The jazzy beat and music aid in it being a more laid back jam. It fades into the last track on the album, "Run Wonderland," which has about the same tempo and feel as the previous song, just with more of a modern hip hop sound. Hopefully these are the sounds that the duo will feed us on their next outing.
It doesn't stop at the remixes and new tracks though. If you put the CD in your computer, you can access three other tracks - the three that were cut from the original 2004 version of Pro*Pain for the 2006 release: "Moment," "Loud!," and "All Out." It's understandable why, if any songs had to be cut from the album, these would be the ones. That's not to say that they are bad songs, because they're certainly not. They're definitely Mars ILL quality, however they just seem to be a little weaker than the rest... Just a little.
I don't think I can honestly say that this is a better album than Pro*Pain itself. While Mars ILL never disappoints, Slow Flame loses points in two main areas: 1) remix albums are just all too common anymore, and 2) it's hard to get used to the new beats after becoming so comfortable with the originals. Don't let that deter you from picking this up, though. The quality is still outstanding, as can be expected in anything that bares the name Mars ILL.- Review date: 3/19/08, written by Scott Fryberger
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