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LONE NINJA (prod. Lord Beatjitzu): Trapdoors & Secret Passageways (2013)

[RATING: 5] Hankering after lo-fi martial-arts-referencing beats and deceptively simple lyrics that whisper through your defences like a shadow warrior’s blade? Look no further because Lone Ninja is back with new LP Trapdoors & Secret Passageways. Lone who? Indeed. The Brooklyn-based rapper is so underground he probably doesn’t know his own true identity. Now into a career that’s quite a few albums deep (including those under his Lone Ninja moniker and those with June Marx as Twin Perils) he’s acquired a (somewhat fanatical) underground following. Which might have something to do with the fact that he’s a man dedicated to a single concept. Name, album titles and covers, lyrical content, samples, record label – it’s all about the shinobi of feudal Japan. But hang on a minute – isn’t this ninja obsession a bit solipsistic and limiting? How many times can you rap about secret missions and shuriken? How many times can films like Shogun Assassin be tapped for samples – especially when RZA and crew got their first? The second one’s easy – you don’t bother with edited mish-mash Shogun Assassin – you make your source the full six Lone Wolf ronin movies!

Frankly, anyone who thinks the ninja motif is limiting clearly hasn’t grasped its potential as a universal metaphor. Feeling threatened by and isolated from those around you as does the narrator of Apparition? Well – the life of a covert assassin is also a lonely one. Want to assassinate your useless boss (one interpretation of Ulterior Motives) and all their sycophantic cronies? You’re like a lone ninja! In fact, feel that the planet is being run by corrupt idiots who need to be disappeared (a message easily read into Warpath)? You are a lone fucking ninja! See? Frankly, I find it strangely comforting to be enveloped once more in tales of betrayal, limbs amputated by sword blade and crusty old martial arts movie samples – it’s been a while since Depth Charge and the Wu did much along those lines. Finally, let’s not forget to mention the beatmaker himself – 5 Element Ninja – a.k.a. Lord Beatjitzu who ensures there’s folded carbon steel in those beats throughout. Epic. Don’t sleep. Or at least not without one hand on your sword…
(Out now on Holographic Pagoda)

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