The Beatnuts' underwhelming last album, Milk Me, found the venerable duo of Junkyard Juju and Psycho Les still chasing the mainstream recognition and radio play that had eluded them for a decade and a half, even after their "Off The Books" helped make guest rapper Big Punisher a star. Milk Me was the weakest effort to date from the ordinarily dependable act, so it's good to see Les bounce back with Big City, a funky little side project reuniting him with Problemz, a solid Beatnuts utility player, and Al Tariq, a founding Beatnuts member who left in the late '90s to become a devout Muslim.
Problemz's double-time flow and Tariq's assured presence on the mic give The City Never Sleeps a welcome lyrical slickness that's been missing from Les' music since Tariq left the 'Nuts. And the warped song concepts hearken back to the free-floating perversity of the group's demented early work. Here, Les and his partners go on an epic MILF hunt, offer an ingratiatingly homemade attempt at chopped-and-screwed dirty-South funk built around a dramatically slowed-down Guru sample, and chastise gossipmongers while spreading tongue-in-cheek dirt of their own. Even the obligatory club song for the ladies radiates swaggering sexuality.
Problemz excels during his solo showcase, and it's great to hear godly dropout Tariq back doing the devil's handiwork again. The City Never Sleeps captures a cult producer finally giving up on the quixotic pursuit of mainstream success and rededicating himself to that vintage Beatnuts motherfuckery. God bless his evil soul.