When the Gravediggaz emerged from hip-hop's crypt three years ago, they were credited with ushering in a new wave of scary rap known as horrorcore. Thankfully, the group has survived that short-lived trend, which generated more schlock than shock. On the Gravediggaz's second album, The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel, Poetic, Frukwan, Prince Paul (of De La Soul fame) and RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan) emphasize insight rather than fright.
Joining them is a slew of Wu-Tang Clan associates, who help take this album to the next level rappers such as Killah Priest, Hell Razor, Omen and 9th Prince show off their verbal dexterity with cryptic, often apocalyptic, verses. You can see they've had a good example in RZA, who continues to shine on the mike. In "Twelve Jewelz," he gets scientific: "Solid, liquid and gases that cause the land masses/And its space catalyst all matter that exist/It is dense third dimension/Must be observed through physical comprehension." You'll need the lyric sheets to appreciate everything that's going on here.
Producers Poetic, Fourth Disciple, True Master and newcomers Goldfinghaz and Darkim create an exotic, multilayered soundscape that is often melancholic, but also melodic. Surprisingly, RZA's sole contribution as a producer, "What's Goin' On," pales in comparison; another disappointment on The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel is Prince Paul's low profile. Nonetheless, with their new album the Gravediggaz deliver plenty to sink your pick into. (RS 769)
S.H. FERNANDO JR.
(Posted: Sep 18, 1997)
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