Oakland has always nurtured talented, and the city's latest offering, ALLBLACK and Offset Jim, are no exception. Like any life-long friendships, they've watched and supported each other through hardships and obstacles. Now they're ready to take Oakland by storm with their long-anticipated collaborative project, “22nd Ways.”
"22nd Ways" marks the first official body of work from ALLBLACK this year, while Jim released his first EP earlier in 2019. The project is an homage to the neighborhood that ALLBLACK and Offset Jim are from, an area known to Oakland natives as the Murder Dubs. The neighborhood stretches from 20th-29th Avenue along International Blvd. The 10-track EP is a perfect soundtrack representing the long, hot blocks of Oakland. Amidst the rapid changes happening in Oakland, ALLBLACK and Jim represent part of what's currently missing from Oakland music, authenticity.
P-Lo and Cal-A produced the joint project from the Oakland duo. Throughout the 10 songs, the two rappers trade verses over seamless production from P-Lo and Cal-A exclusively. The EP is a reflection of past hardships growing up in Oakland and putting the listener in their shoes in the present.
The first song on a project has an important duty: laying the foundation for what's to come on the rest of the album. The introduction to "22nd Ways," "9Shots," gives the listener all the context they need to immerse themselves into ALLBLACK and Offset Jim's universe. As the song opens with chords of Bay Area inspired G-Funk synths, ALLBLACK and Offset Jim reflect on their childhood and their past. ALLBLACK raps, “Ni**as remind me of the coat I had in the first grade / sitting there with all the sh*t in lost-and-found.” "9Shots" represents the growth from rags to riches, where Offset Jim raps, “I can walk it like I talk it cause I really live it.” Both Jim and BLACK showcase the success they've achieved by staying true to themselves. The two are braggadocious yet provocative in the most engaging way. This track is a perfect celebration of ALLBLACK and Offset Jim and how far they’ve come.
"Demon" opens up with P-Lo’s signature “Ay!” adlib and a drum break sounding like someone walking on freshly broken glass. The hook is simple but catchy, “B*tch you know we the cleanest/Gang with me, you see we lit, please don’t give me a reason/For that paper, I’m a demon…” This money-motivated record invokes a need to pop your collar and put on a thizz face, flexing with all your might. “Demon” rides a classic bouncy hyphy beat. This is definitely a song you don't want to miss!
Trip On it:
Chemistry is always important when collaborating. On “Trip On It” the chemistry is gleaming, ALLBLACK and Offset Jim set the tone for $tupid Young, DaBoii, Fenix Flexin to deliver pure bars. That’s another reason why ALLBLACK and Offset Jim are two of the most popular artists in the Town. ALLBLACK's raspy, rapid-fire flow when spitting verses, whereas Offset Jim has a very laid back, monotone delivery. “Trip On It” is the perfect culmination of that chemistry. It features a classic ALLBLACK verse full of entertaining references ranging from Austin Powers and Tupac, and nods to the City of Berkeley and Stephen Curry. The simple melody created by the gritty piano creates an edge to the track.
You might be asking what “PRA” stands for? Well, the acronym refers to “Play Runners Association,” the family-style collective that the two rappers are proudly a part of. With this in mind, the penultimate track on 22nd Ways is a funkalicious synth-heavy anthem produced by P-Lo. ALLBLACK is very knowledgeable about sports history which becomes much of the source material for his lyricism. Both rappers end their verses with layered vocals. This choice is both different and refreshing.
Got that Fire:
ALLBLACK and Offset Jim flex over a smoothly orchestrated beat in “Got That Fire.” The beat is built around a synthesizer’s string sounds and fast-paced drums. Both rappers are engaging and charismatic as they trade verses about lifestyle habits and the Oakland streets they run through. "Got That Fire" is chaotic to listen to but it’s engaging. The wordplay is humorous yet irreverent, which has been a trend in the local rap game for generations.
Honorable mention, "Fees," the lead single from "22nd Ways" slaps.