Review: Stanford Hip Hop Congress’ ‘Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1’

Nov. 5, 2010, 12:39 a.m.

Review: Stanford Hip Hop Congress' 'Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1'Stanford Hip Hop Congress recently released a compilation of some of their new tracks, entitled “Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1.” Filled with 17 tracks of their work, this student effort is a strong foray into the world of hip hop, with a few minor hiccups. While low production quality detracted from the feel of many of the tracks, the CD proved that Hip Hop Congress is passionate about music and has some innovative art to share with the world.

The mix tape by Stanford Hip Hop Congress, a collaboration of student emcees, includes Alvin “Allure” Addo ‘12, Gautam “Reckonize” Sharma ‘12, Christian “CSmooth” Smith ‘12, Mia “Lady Renaissance” Shaw ‘12, Sam “ProfiT” Lawrence ‘12, Alberto “FineSse” Guzman ‘13 and Doug Mills ‘13.

Review: Stanford Hip Hop Congress' 'Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1'
(Courtesy of Stanford Hip Hop Congress)

The most notable feature of the album was the interesting, witty lyrics in the songs. Some songs spoke about the partying side of Stanford life, such as “Booty,” a collaboration featuring several of the album’s artists. “The life of a Stanford student/I’ll guess I’ll say it/Party, party, party ‘til we all get wasted/Shots, shots, shots till we all butt naked/Ski trip stories that’s all on Facebook” drawls one of the collaborators, offering a more lighthearted version of life at Stanford.

Other songs revert to more general hip hop fare, such as “Fall in Love” by Mills. “I do anything I can to show you you’re my world/Nothing I’d rather do than spend time with my girl”, he croons, echoing the lines of many a hip hop song devoted to love. Some songs had truly odd lyrics, such as Lady Renaissance’s Glenwood Remix. She raps “Lady please/Compared to you I’m diarrhea, I just keep it flowing, now there’s an idea”, definitely a bizarre way to talk about creating lyrics.

Review: Stanford Hip Hop Congress' 'Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1'
Meet the Stanford Hip Hop Congress. (Courtesy of Stanford Hip Hop Congress)

The background beats were hit or miss, with some tracks being lifted by exceptional beats and others being dragged down by an unprofessional, boring background. Tracks like “A New Day,” with violin undertones, “Tomorrow,” with ukulele and “Sunshine,” with its echoing background effect, were enjoyable to listen to and helped enhance the lyrics. Other tracks, like “Here We Stand” and “What They Say” used backgrounds that were unexceptional and almost empty sounding, taking away from the songs.

The quality of the production varied over the album, affecting how good the tracks were. “Booty,” “Drop the Match” and “They Know,” for example, had decent production and background that came together to make tracks that sound almost radio-ready. Some tracks also made use of auto-tune, which definitely helped them sound more current. However, the rest seemed a bit rough around the edges, making it obvious that it was student work, not a professional album.

Despite less-than-perfect production, the album managed to showcase some real talent through a few quality songs. “Tomorrow” by FineSse, combining a chill ukulele-infused background beat with mellow lyrics, was an album standout, while “Drop the Match” by Reckonize and the Produca mixed a cool beat with climbing background notes and authentic-sounding flows to make an intense track. “They Know,” by ProfiT, CSmooth and Allure, utilized super-fast lyrics, slower melodic choruses and a solid backbone to create a resonating hip hop anthem.

Cardinal Mixtapes Volume 1 is a solid start for a group of talented young hip hop artists here at Stanford. Utilizing clever lyrics, fun beats and original ideas, Stanford Hip Hop Congress overcomes mediocre production to make a decent album.

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