I’ve never visited the San Fernando Valley, but pop culture regarding the area comes to the same conclusion: it’s a rough and rugged place populated by people of a similar character. But after hearing Reseda Beach by hip hop group Styles of Beyond, something tells me that they’re not too rough to pull off a good album.
The album fits this description mainly for Ryu and Tak’s consistently solid verses that mesh with the group’s penchant for eclectic production. It makes for a great variety of tunes, ranging from “Here We Go”‘s warm chipmunk soul and the duo’s celebratory rhymes, to “Take That” featuring a comically evil sample and Celph Titled serving up an appropriately funny verse.
Their ability to flip between styles makes sense for their work with Mike Shinoda, group member of Linkin Park, as part of the Fort Minor project. And it’s also telling that “Second to None,” which features Mike Shinoda, is one of the more aggressive tracks, as a grungy, Rage Against The Machine-style riff runs roughshod over booming drums and Ryu’s brazen lyrics: “I’m a killer and I usually know my victims/so I catch a lot of bodies on the homie system.”
But the Styles crew can handle a record without his presence as well. They both possess a classic machismo that’s effortlessly cool and in your face. Highlighted on tracks like “Dunky Fividends,” the memory-laned track “Damn”and the (posthumously) J. Dilla produced “Hard,” they really draw listeners with their hardbody sensibilities and odd, sometimes puerile sense of humor. Even the lazy filler track “Pirate Song,” a drinking chant, comes wrapped in likable pirate metaphors and a woozy flute-filled beat.
Their sensibilities also require skits, of which there are three on the project. Each one, handled by Alex 2Tone, honestly seems like a worthy break from the music but only the outro, “The Valley,” merits any replays for its absurd facts about San Fernando Valley: “Sometimes people mistake their Star Wars DVD for the Bible in the Valley.” The first skit has a hilarious line about “praying to the bumblebee pope” and the second makes light of raves, but they both feel hollow after a while.
But the music it intercepts, full-bodied and lively, will last much longer than that. Reseda Beach would perfectly soundtrack a trip to the beach or even a trip to the grocery store, and deserves at least one spin-through for the production and Celph Titled’s ridiculous features: “You think a trip to the morgue will stop me?/ they thought I was dead, chilly chill/ then I walked out of my autopsy.”