Welcome to another world, where rappers don’t shoot at each other over geographic feuds, where popular hip-hop groups advocate art, and where I-R-S does not spell taxes. Welcome to Toronto.
Welcome to Planet IRS showcases a rap trio who hail from the most multicultural city in the world and who represent their roots to the fullest. Although IRS’s style takes cues from West Coast rap, hardcore rap, and even gangsta rap, their open-minded musical experimentation and lyrical exploration reflect the diversity of their home base.
IRS’s progressive approach to beats and rhythms arises out of their underground roots in Scarborough, Canada, where IRS members Korry Deez, Black Cat, and T.R.A.C.K.S. teamed up with the Mighty Monolith crew. IRS, whose name stands for Instinctive Reaction to Struggle, formed in 1998 when the Monolith crew disbanded. In the year 2000 they released their debut, America’s Ghettos.
Welcome to Planet IRS is the next step along the IRS path. It is centered on themes of tolerance and understanding while promoting Toronto, local underground hip-hop, and music as an end in itself rather than simply a means to fame and glory. “The ignorance has to stop,” enunciate Deez and Black Cat together in the second track and the album’s first single, “Strictly for the Heads.”
Musically, Welcome to Planet IRS draws upon 70s funk and disco and old school hip-hop as much as it advances modern beats and techniques. With multiple emcees and skilled DJs on hand, IRS often create a dynamic similar to that of Jurassic 5, albeit with a more hardcore punch. And their occasional use of musical instruments, as opposed to exclusive reliance upon samples and programmed beats, lends the album a live performance vibe that enhances and expands the listening experience.
The most inventive song on Welcome to Planet IRS is “Munyam Jam,” a smoke break purposefully placed at the middle point of the album. IRS give the track a conceptual spin that changes it from empty filler into something worth hearing – as a deep breath inhales and exhales smoke, the laid-back beat lazily fades in and out.
The album’s opener, “Lift Off,” is another standout, featuring ex-members of the Mighty Monolith crew Nisk Rawks, Dan-e-o, and Wio-k. A space station countdown kicks things off before wicked scratching and passionate raps lift things up even higher.
IRS’s music is intelligent hip-hop with an underground ethic and feel that maintains mainstream appeal. The group’s tour with Shaggy in 2001 and multiple awards prove that they have earned the attention of people in power, while the reputation they enjoy within their scene in Canada ensures their street cred. Hip-hop world, beware: collision with Planet IRS is imminent.