This doesn't mean that C-Rayz Walz's music (or Aesop Rock's, for that matter) is wack. But the production could be better. Save for a few standout tracks like Ste-lo's melancholy "We Live," most of the backing tracks fade too easily into the background. Then again, perhaps it's the sharpness of C-Rayz's voice. He has a grainy, jumpy cadence that is difficult to ignore.
This imbalance -- dope lyrics, so-so tracks -- gives Ravipops a studious quality that makes it difficult to digest. The only element that keeps you listening is his word play; his penchant for weaving elusive narratives held together by witty punch lines ("I've never been slim/But my attitude's still Shady," he raps on "The Essence"), slang, and in-jokes deserves close listening, even at the expense of the music itself.