Album Review: The Cuf-Caviar Volume 1 (2011)

April 27, 2011 3 min read

BUY NOW: The Cuf "Caviar Volume 1" (CFO Recordings)

It’s tough to imagine how a group can not record an album in close to a decade, then reunite and release material that shows they haven’t missed a step, and proves that they may actually be better than ever. The CUF have accomplished this feat with Caviar Vol. 1, the group’s first “official” album in 11 years, creating an opus that boasts a balance of funk, energy, and maturity.

The CUF (an acronym for California Underground Funk) have been mainstays of the Northern California scene since its mid-’90s golden age. Coming out of the state’s capital, Sacramento, the crew recorded and released four albums between 1996 and 2000 before taking an extended hiatus through much of the ’00s. In the 11 years in-between, the group members worked on solo material and offshoot projects, before coming back together for Caviar. With the new the album, the core members N8 the Great, Pete B., Crush, Brother RJ, and DJ Mad G, are joined by the 15-year-old Taktics aka Lil N8 aka N8 the Great’s son. The CUF has always made dope hip-hop music, but Caviar demonstrates that they’ve stepped their game up, and are capable of creating a wholly unique sonic identity, both lyrically and musically. Caviar Vol. 1 is “grown hip-hop” without the pretensions normally associated with the term.

A highlight of Caviar is its production, handled by N8 the Great, which balances boom-bap with an almost live instrumentation sound. On “Flame Lit,” N8 juxtaposes an expertly chopped “You’ll Like it Too” breakbeat with funky ’70s sounding synths. The lyrics more than do the track justice, with Crush giving a rapid-fire stand-out performance: “It’s the CUF that’s burning up the city like a California fire/ It’s a must that you hush, what you should do is retire/ I’m torching and scorching and if your shit don’t hit, then man, please don’t force the issue.” Another highlight is “Too Much,” a spare but slow-rolling funky jam, drawing inspiration from a fairly obscure ‘90s Chubb Rock track of the same name (which in turn was inspired by an even more obscure Doctor Freeze track from the mid-‘80s).

The CUF also excels on what on the straight-ahead head-nodding up-tempo hip-hop jams on the album, such as “Gotta Love Us,” with its trumpet driven track, blistering scratches, vocal samples, and hard-hitting drums. Meanwhile, “Larry Lay” showcases the crew spitting more heat on a fun and upbeat track. Pete drops rhymes like “Shhh! Cállate! Real life ‘Monopoly’/ Play the game properly, pocket full of broccoli“ over a rolling bassline and “Funky Drummer” vocal stabs, is another of the album’s highlights.

The album closes with the introspective “We Got More,” with the members of The CUF trying to evaluate their musical career, the obstacles they’ve faced in the hometown, and what they’ve accomplished in the face of adversity. N8 starts the track off with gems like, “Man on the Moon type shit when I write/ Gotta stop my P’s ‘cause I spit on the mic/ Jumping over pit-falls, biting alligators/ It’s like a safari riding up on real live haters.” Then Pete finishes on the final verse: “Source Magazine dreams, “Rap City” wishes/ But the industry at hand don’t recognize CUF’s existence/ But we never made cuts to be famous/ All we ever wanted to do was rap in different places.” It’s serves as a solid testament to what the group has achieved in close to two decade, and how they may well continue to create music at a high level well into the future.

I'm Too Much:
[audio:|titles=04 I'm Too Much]

Gotta Love Us:
[audio:|titles=06 Gotta Love Us]

We Got More:
[audio:|titles=12 We Got More]

BUY NOW: The Cuf "Caviar Volume 1" (CFO Recordings)

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Written By Jesse Ducker

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