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Smoke Dza – Rolling Stoned (Review)


Over the past few years there’s been a renaissance taking place in hip hop. Artists such as Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y have taken the sonic doobie previously lit in the ‘90s by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Devin the Dude, and exhaled their own brand of weed rap. Trying to light a spark in this current pro-ganja movement is Harlem emcee, Smoke Dza. Despite being from New York, he’s not your typical East Coast rapper. While his boastful swag is reminiscent of Jay-Z, his overall laid-back style is definitely influenced by other regions on the map, particularly the South. His critics insist that in the rap world of Batman and Robin emcees, Dza is nothing more than a sidekick. While there may be some truth to that sentiment, there’s no denying that Smoke D has made enough connections over the years to potentially deliver a dope album…or compilation at the very least.

After gaining some buzz with his last two efforts (George Kush Da Button and the T.H.C. mixtape), Smoke Dza’s latest record, Rolling Stoned, is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from him. It features solid production and a loaded guestlist. With quality appearances by Fiend, Bun B, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, Kendrick Lamar and SchoolBoy Q, RS actually turned out to be quite an impressive little record in a year of underwhelming releases. Other notable guests include like-minded artists such as Asap Rocky, Trademark Da Skydiver, Dom Kennedy and Big Sant.

Most of the album’s production is by super obscure beatsmiths like 183rd, Vdon and Omen. Cardo on the Beat and Big K.R.I.T. each contribute a track as well. Despite the fact that there are several chefs in Dza’s kitchen, Rolling Stoned still manages to be a very tight and cohesive offering. Dripping in soul, funk and jazz while floating over airy cinematic synthesizers, Rolling Stoned drifts by at a quick pace. It’s over before you know it. At 12 tracks clocking in at a mere 37 minutes, the album is aptly titled because it literally rolls on by like a Cadillac at three in the morning, with clouds of purple haze billowing from all four windows.

Smoke Dza still hasn’t proved he’s a top-tier emcee with his latest joint. Having 11 guest appearances within 37 minutes sure didn’t help his cause. He barely shows up for more than a verse on nearly every song. And he gets outshined by his peers on several occasions. Don’t get me wrong, Dza definitely has his moments on standout cuts like “On The Corner,” “He Has Risen,” and “4 Loko.” But it’s the guest appearances on tracks like “Notorious,” “Ball Game,” and “Overhigh” that truly make this album a worthwhile listen. Big Sant, Kendrick Lamar and SchoolBoy Q absolutely kill it one their verses. Bun B, Curren$y and the rest of the gang also turn in very strong performances. Basically, it’s best to think of Rolling Stoned as a collaborative effort featuring some of underground hip hop’s finest emcees. Smoke Dza comes nice on the mic, but his ability to bring together great talent, both producers and lyricists, is perhaps his greatest asset right now.