Skarr Akbar: Bossman Vs. Skarr Akbar
When we last checked in with Skarr Akbar--one of the Baltimore undergroundís most talented, and most hated-on, MCs--he was prepping the release of a long-awaited album, Da Beautiful Mind ("Verbal Remedy,"No Cover, Aug. 31, 2005). In the year since the album has yet to surface, but he has kept a high profile with a constant stream of mixtapes with the Streetsweepersí DJ Radio, dropping at least three in the last few weeks.
Skarr still has the fire in his belly to sound perpetually pissed off on the mic, and while he leans a bit too heavily on gun talk, his musicís appeal comes as much from its quality as it does the overwhelming quantity of it. The Cerebellum, the fourth edition in Skarrís long-running The General series, is the best of the new batch and features the highest concentration of new material, most of it self-produced. And the hammering treble overload of Skarrís best beats suits his voice better than anything a producer could sell him.
Bossman Vs. Skarr Akbar, mixed by DJ Booman, follows one of the more popular formats of mixtapes these days, pairing up two MCs and letting the listener decide who is the illest. In this case, at least, the competitors arenít beefing in real life; in fact, Bossman and Skarr have a history of friendly competition dating back to freestyle battles when both were students at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School. Skarrís most aggressive material, from the militant stomp of "Pick Ya Poison" to the eerie vocal wail of "Dumpsta Juice," is sized up against Bossmanís decidedly more accessible radio hits, including the current single "Youíre Wrong," which rides a triumphant horn swell courtesy of Chicago superproducer No I.D.
Itís debatable who is nicer on the mic, even if Bossmanís hit-making track record establishes why heís the one signed to Virgin, but at the end of the mixtape Skarr and Boss establish their mutual respect, rhyming together over the beat from Cassidyís "Iím a Hustla." Skarrís latest solo disc, The Bidding War Starts Now!, ostensibly aims to put the MC in the company of his major-league peers. Heavy on freestyles and not quite as strong as Cerebellum, itís unlikely that Bidding War will be the mixtape that sends major label A&Rs looking for Skarr. But the inclusion of a few killer tracks, including the thunderous new single "Bang," which marries an insistent kick-drum pattern to a rhythmic gunshot sound effect, mean that itís still worth copping, at least until that album finally drops.