Kool A.D. grew up in San Francisco-- while this is a well-known fact, it's not one that's acknowledged particularly often. It's understandable considering Das Racist have become entrenched in N.Y.'s cultural milieu in so many different ways that their music has been embraced as something like a metaphor for a certain kind of lifestyle in the city. You can ascertain Victor Vazquez's Cali roots as a matter of relativity, being that Queens native Heems is more assertive as both a rapper and as a media presence. But otherwise, outside of calling himself the "second-best rapper with glasses after E-40," it's tough to pinpoint much influence even when you know it's there. All of which makes Kool A.D.'s second mixtape of 2012, 51, a surprise and a long time coming: Recorded entirely in Oakland with a heavy presence of Bay Area producers and rappers, it's a testament to his heretofore untested malleability, a new way to hear the old Kool A.D.-- something which the admirable, if loopy outré R&B of The Palm Wine Drinkard got only half right.
He takes every opportunity to enthusiastically serve as a tour guide ("Couple blocks from the sun dial/ Candlestick Park, south one mile/ Alameda, Walnut, St. Anthony"), drop slang, and rhyme over out-the-trunk 808s ("Ticky Ticky") and near-hyphy rhythms ("Manny Pacquiao") to let you know he's making himself at home again. Overall, though, 51 feels more like a comprehensive California thing, specifically mid-2000s Stones Throw in both sound and structure with the "for the love" generosity of recent E-40 tossed in. There's an intelligent stream-of-consciousness here, something along the lines of Madlib's work as Quasimoto or Guilty Simpson's overlooked OJ Simpson. To isolate a particular five-minute run, the typically dense "Donda" ("I'm so emotional like Thursday/ Cherchez anything/ So Diddy with it/ Looking for a check with like 50 digits") abruptly cuts to a Dylan sample ("Biz vs. Nudge") and then 15 seconds later, a screwed Young L