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One (Insiduous Urban)

Wednesday, May 30 2001
If the copyright date on One were 1993 and not 2001, Mission:'s debut album would probably be talked about in hushed tones. The Berklee School of Music-trained and Oakland-based act might even receive the obligatory "old school" name-dropping, which many current groups use to contextualize their sounds. (Mission: follows the trend, listing three early-'90s footnote-worthy characters: Kwamé, King Sun, and Yz.)

But as the number of mike-wielding hopefuls swells, groups that are content to wade in the supervised end of the creative pool simply get lost in the shuffle. Mission:'s live instrumentation -- processed just enough to sound like smoothly sampled vintage jazz -- has a clear antecedent in the pioneering work of the Roots, and the group's heartfelt open-letter-to-my-baby's-momma feel of "More Than You Know" comes off sounding reheated following OutKast's "Ms. Jackson" and other similar songs. Mission:'s lambasting of hip hop materialism on "Disturbing Behavior" pales next to Kool Keith's work, and the breezy reappropriation of the jungle rhythms on the untitled final track is something Mission:'s East Bay contemporaries Zion I pulled off a couple of years back.

Still, this is not to suggest that Mission: is without promise, or that its beats and rhymes are lacking, or even that One makes for an unpleasing album. There still aren't enough live bands backing MCs these days, and the Roots' existence doesn't invalidate all those that follow. But in a form of music that lauds uniqueness of delivery -- if not always content -- over all else, Mission: needs to find its own voice before becoming the sort of underground household name to which One is patterned.

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Darren Keast


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