Solid – enough said. Polished – more said. Suntonio Bandanaz’s American Gangster Nerd is a solid, polished album that is a welcome sonic addition for veteran listeners and Suntonio newbies as well. Hip-hop, through and through, Suntonio’s newest release is a journey through skillful and politically tinted lyricism woven over neck-snapping soulful beats. If you like your rap watered down and politely confined within a hyper-limited box filled gangsters, guns, and hoes, then this is not the rap album for you. AGN is clearly meant to be musical, not bubble gummy.
Suntonio Bandanaz seems quite comfortable in his lyrical skin as he explores the fields of wack emcees, Seattle street life, revolutionary politics, and love of hip-hop. You can almost see the turntables and the graffiti pieces in the background of Sun’s rhymes. Not to imply that his sound is old-school, but it is pure. The beats are traditional, sample based beats with a little bit of instrumentalizing (yeah, I just made that up) for people who love music and for grown folks. His rhymes are polished and sharpened to a deadly edge that may miss younger listeners. But a hip-hop head is a hip-hop head no matter the age, and this is a soundtrack for the streets with a book in hand. The politics on the album reflect a thoughtful man who has had his fair share of struggles and landed comfortably in the lap of Seattle’s history of rebellious thought. On a sheer skill level, the beats are ill and the lyrics are honed. Standout songs for this reviewer include the title track, American Gangster Nerd, Block Politics with it’s international flute vibe, Mind Make Up where he says he wants to start a nation of thinkers, Real Issues’ scathing analysis of race relations amidst hip-hop, and We Come in Peace with its infectious bass line and Sun’s pristinely measured flow (which has been on repeat for half of this review).
Ultimately, American Gangster Nerd is an ill album for the real heads, but also an open conversation between a Seattle hip-hop elder and the up-and-coming rookies who are just getting hip to the game. Whether you’re a dedicated head or a rap fan, AGN deserves a serious listen. It will either be a breath of fresh air in the middle of watered down bullsh**, or a friendly reminder of what hip-hop is supposed to sound like – solid and polished.