Knife - Str8 Off Tha Streetz Of East Los

by Dyan Silva
(San Diego, CA, USA)

On "Knife" Sotelo's latest set of new music, I was blessed to recieve a review copy of his upcoming mixtape "Str8 Off Tha Streetz Of East Los," which is an obvious homage to Eazy-E, the East L.A. rapper treads over familiar gangsta territory, call-and-response hooks, complete with bottomless bass, west coast-centered production, bleak themes of poverty, struggle, being a gangster, standing on the verge of Rap boredom, self reflection, repping East Los Angeles, and Maravilla. Brownside/A.T.B.A.N Klann-influenced, his distinctive quick-tongued rhyme delivery (invariably described as a low-pitched whine), over-the-top lyrics, and undeniable charisma make him a champion in his class.

Knife knows good and damn well that leaning on these strengths is exactly where his bread is buttered. The trouble lies in the fact that he keeps serving listeners the same meal, and it’s growing a little bland.

Keenly attuned to the fact that Chicano Rap in the second decade of the 2000s is more single-driven than ever, Knife knows how to deliver a simplistic yet even danceable, head-nodding single, as evidence by "Come Here Gurl" from 2008.

The trend continues with the Mustard-assisted "Gassed Up" It offers unaffected synths, a sped-up Eazy-E sample and an Tyga-inspired hook. Meanwhile Knife ponders whether fans will think of him when he’s no longer relevant on "So Many Wangstas", swoons over aspirations of the pimp life on "Got Dis" and seeks to follow in the infamous Cannabis-fueled footsteps of other weed heads with Reverie on "Evil Escapades".

The production throughout Black Flag is forcefully dreary and haunting, favoring Knife's raspy, grating delivery to a T. Like many rappers in the new millennium, Knife relies more on his outlaw personality and charisma than he does lyrical content.

At times it serves him well, like on the autobiographical opener "Eazy's Back," and the piano-lush "Ole Skewl Shit 2012" where he angrily spews, "It's kinda sad all you levas love to hate on me / When it's clear to my eyes you ain't shit to me / Cause the real recognize real but fakes stay the same / Fuck all you hoes that play this like a game…”

At other times, it’s a drawback, like on the West-Villain-produced "Street Chemisty," which comes across with the drudgery and disappointment of lazy, album filler music.

And besides the "Hidden Track" the only place where Knife really seems to challenges his listener by ending on a truly piercing and depressing note with the stories of partygoers caught in the crosshairs of a turf feud, below-the-poverty-line life, Str8 Off The Streetz pretty much stays in the same proverbially indifferent lane.

You have to give Knife credit for making the whole of Str8 Off The Streetz sincere but it trudges along and grows repetitive and tiresome by the time the rap rock mish mash in the "Radio Interlude" arrives. There are only so many times you can feel sympathy for "Knife" Sotelo's troubled childhood, bounce along to repeated, repetitious "turn it up or turn it down" refrains and be impressed by recurrent came-from-nothing, rags-to-riches bragga-docious.

Maybe we shouldn’t expect Knife to delve too far outside of his comfort zone, but it would be nice for him to take a leap of faith beyond what we’re already painfully well aware of in his music.

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About The Writer

My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

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