After toiling for roughly a decade in the West Coast underground, Strong Arm Steady finally releases what they're billing as their debut full-length. San Diego fans should be happy: SD-bred Mitchy Slick is back after sitting out most of last year's critically acclaimed In Search of Stoney Jackson (which mysteriously doesn't count as SAS's debut). Unfortunately, what makes Mitchy a compelling rapper is largely missing from Arms & Hammers.
And what's missing is nuance. Mitchy Slick is undeniably a gangsta rapper, but recent work has revealed conflicted feelings, flashes of regret and remorse that have given his music more dimension. However, Arms & Hammers trades this complexity for contradiction. It's a little odd when the music video for "Klack or Get Klacked" sees SAS ridding the neighborhood of guns, helping to stop the violence, even as you hear them glorify that same violence in their verses. Odd is their 15-minute short film that highlights three men making a living in different ways — by traditional 9-to-5 work, by social media, and by hustling on the corner — when the album revolves around only one of those lifestyles (guess which one). These examples concern only the marketing of the album. But they still taint it, turning an otherwise straightforward street-rap affair sour. The production thumps with West Coast bangers by DJ Khalil, Jelly Roll, and Terrace Martin. But it's not quite enough to save the album.
Album: Arms & Hammers (2011)
Artist: Strong Arm Steady
Label: Element 9
Songs: (1) Had Enough (2) Make Me Feel (3) Klack or Get Klacked (4) Gangsta's (5) Can't Let It Go (6) All the Brothers (7) Blow My Horn (8) Trunk Music (9) Much More (10) On Point (11) Chiba Chiba Pt. 2 (12) When Darkness Falls