United We Fall (Battle Axe)
Sweatshop Union gets no love from its local peers, who show little regard for its five-digit-selling albums and even less for its life- affirming world-view. The backbiters, however, seem as much motivated by jealousy as by a genuine distaste for the Union's bourgeois-bohemian brand of hip-hop. United We Fall won't change the minds of those malcontents. Like Sweatshop's past two albums, this one might be a little too pleasant for my tastes, but whatever you think of the music's laid-back vibe, there's no arguing with the slickness of its execution. That polish is due in large part to producers Rob the Viking, Metty the Dert Merchant, and Dusty Melo, all of whom use both samples and live instrumentation to give the record an airy summertime feel.
As for the lyricists, they wag their collective finger at the consumption-mad world on "Close to Home" and "Never Enough (Money Loves Me)", a pair of songs that veer close to sloganeering. Best of the conscious tracks here is "Office Space", which offers an incisive account of a corporate scumbag and his ladder-climbing subordinate. If much of the lyrical impact of United We Fall is dulled by sweeping generalities, this number hints at the heights Sweatshop's MCs could reach if they always conjured such fully fleshed characters.