You can test the water or just jump in. The Emerald Knights decided to do the latter on their intro to their second studio album Emerald Knights 2. “Emerald Knights a Go” is a lyrical assault, laced with triumphs and statements that are intended to be provocative enough for fans of confidence and provoke those few jaded listeners. Bag of Tricks makes sure to let his naysayers know “On they best day, they couldn’t see me at my worst” and Mega Ran says “While you froze in the distance, I’m literally sitting on the throne in Olympus” to emphasize their ability to assemble rhymes on another level from their competition. The next track, “Rappers in Their Feelings”, feels like they predicted what the intro was going to do while also crafting a warning to lazy copycats. They don’t address them as haters because Mega Ran says that “hate implies passion”. G1 sings the hook with Bag of Tricks taking the final verse to hammer home how so many artists say they are making big moves but “cant bring 10 friends to a free show”.
The beat on the next track takes you away before the smooth hook ironically hooks you in. “Afraid to Love” is the hidden gem on the album that you will find yourself replaying more than you realize as it connects to the desire of everyone to shake off the past and live life with an open heart. Mega Ran slows it down a bit without sacrificing syllable count and at times speeds it back up not just cause he can but because it enhances the song. Bag of Tricks finds himself taking a similar path with almost as much impact and really sets up the next song. “Heat Stroke” comes on with a nod to the previous track that acts as a thematic bridge between the two. Its a celebration of love after shaking off the doubts from the past. It feels like a day at the beach and where Mega Ran and Bag of Tricks took the slower approach in “Afraid to Love” they take it down another notch on this one but ramp up the intensity of their playfulness and utilize the subtleties in their vocal control to great affect. G1 brings an amazingly catchy hook and the Ashton Charles shows out with saxophone contribution that will no doubt be sampled multiple times in the future.
When you wanna get back to letting the listeners know that its not all fun and games you should make your next track as close to you can to “Unbelievable”. The Emerald Knights go it alone on this song and bring back the quick deliveries and word play. “Get out the 90′s” is not what it seems. From the name you would think the two don’t have a deep appreciation for 90′s hip hop but its actually the exact opposite. The track speaks to the harsh reality of rappers not being able to move on from the past and embrace the new wave. The next song ”How Do You Sleep at Night” feels like another prediction but takes a very personal turn when Bag of Tricks brings you into his struggles on the road and the expectations that he puts on himself. Mega Ran echoes his sentiments and spills a few fears of his own. “Worldwide” is a back and forth from the Emerald Knights and feels like a trap song that never lets itself become one in the way we interpret trap music now. The two trading stanzas really bring a fresh feeling to a song that already has the most unique beat. “If I could” feels like it should’ve been after a different song on the album but its placement before the last track “Love is Here” is perfect. The positive message is painted with bleak stories that shy away from the reasons love is such a necessary component in our lives.
The choir of children’s voices singing the hook lead perfectly into the last track. Elluna brings her vocal talents to a unique beat with “Love is Here” while the Emerald Knights bring their reasons for why they do what they do. Bag of Tricks opens up about a fact that many artists struggle with when he says “At my shows its rare to see loved ones in the front row” and Mega Ran is critical of himself when he states “I used call all the rappers over 30 dumb, until I got my biggest break, I was 31″ The artists point of views and song content are consistent enough to where this album feels like its longer than it actually is in a good way. The album ends with 10 songs that have more impact that the trend of 20+ tracks other albums have had lately.
Four of the beats were produced by G1 while producers Dakota, The Philharmonik, DJ DN3, U’nique Music, K-Murdock, & EL-Jay Beats contributed one track each. The album is expertly mixed by Michael Gammarano at HKS Studos and mastered by Brian Gigerich. They really allowed the artists, whether that was the Emerald Knights themselves or any of their talented guests, to shine through on each track.
The Emerald Knights are more than just the duo of Mega Ran and Bag of Tricks on Emerald Knights 2. They bring individually unique talents but when combined feel like a super group for contemporary hip hop fans that appreciate the music that laid the groundwork for today. Underground enough to stay out of your parents playlists but relevant enough to capture mainstream attention (which they did, see Billboard for confirmation).
Lyrics: 4.5/5 Production: 4.25/5 Topic: 3.5/5 Beats: 4/5 Originality: 4/5