Ritual Of The...

Molemen, 2001

Hip Hop in 2001. Back then, I remember thinking that hip hop had really fallen off. Many of the luminaries like Big L, Pac and Biggie were gone and it seemed like maybe true hip hop really was dead. Wow. You really don't know what you got till it's gone. You would think, by observing the obvious cycle here, that ten years from now I'll be waxing poetic about how great things were in 2010. But I can assure you that if I ever look back with fondness on Drake or the autotune, I will happily find someone to knee me in the groin repeatedly.
Because of this CD, when I think of Chicago hip hop, I don't think of Kanye or Lupe or even Common. I think of dark streets and shadowy clubs where midwest hip hop thrived back in the 90's and early 2000's. If Kanye is the glittering lights of the Chicago skyline, then Molemen are the grimy gutters of the South Side where the air is thick with anticipation because s**t can go down at any minute. It's truly sinister and some of the tracks here are more anxiety-inducing than a cocaine-fueled Tyra Banks.

Molemen are producers Panik, Memo and PNS and when Ritual was released, they dominated the Chicago hip hop scene. They are still influential, but to me, this was their apex.
This is a classic "underground" hip hop album because it features many MC's who were either about to blow up or who had just found modest success. Among them were Slug, Aesop Rock, Percee P, MF Doom, Rhymefest and Vakill. The production is dark and atmospheric and it perfectly matches the battle-inspired lyrics on every track.
When it comes to the MC's, it's nothing but ego. The punch lines here hit like Mayweather and everyone is in top form. Just a few of the highlights are the tracks from Matlock, Juice, Vakill, Prime and Qwel. Some of Chi-Town's finest are here and, in my humble opinion, it's the hometown MC's that really shine.
This is the sound of producers and MC's at the top of their game, and it's a textbook example of what hip hop should sound like.