Tuesday, November 21, 2006

AZ is, in his own words, "the most hated, most underrated". This bit of braggadocio can actually be backed up with interesting facts. For instance, most of you know that AZ provided the only guest spot to perhaps the most critically acclaimed hip hop album ever, teaming with Nas to create the classic stoner anthem "Life's A Bitch" from Illmatic. However, a quick trip over to Labelscans.com, shows the name "AZ" never apeared anywhere on the single. Infact you have to look four names deep in the writing credits before you see "A. Cruz". This seems to be another example of Nas fearing the shine of one of his fellow emcees (see "Cormega"), but it didn't manage to create a rift, as AZ wisely enlisted Nas to provide vocals on a pair of tracks from Doe or Die, his 1995 debut album, and they continued to work together up until 2002's Grammy nominated "The Essence". Despite his connections with NY hiphop legends, including DJ Premier, AZ has achieved very little commercial success, but as we all know commercially successful music and good music are mutually exclusive.
A.W.O.L. was, in my estimation, one of the best releases of 2005. Now, just over a year later, The Format is making a bid for similar consideration. With strong guest spots (MOP & Little Brother) and production highlighting AZ's cool relaxed flow, The Format should not be overlooked. The Emile produced track "Get High" provides cheba fiends a worthy track to spark to. On "Animal", AZ spits over a very recognizable Biggie sample. DJ Premier laces the title track with the expertise that only he can. Just listen to that marimba...

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