Long Island’s Diabolic is probably best known in underground rap circles as the cat who blew the kiddies away on Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 1., but Liar & a Thief gives him a chance to take matters into his own hands – sort of. Of course, any rapper with Tech in his corner is going to generate some hype and Diabolic is no different. Fans have been waiting for this one for a long time.
Produced by Engineer, Liar & a Thief is a pretty good indicator of what’s to come from Diabolic. It isn’t a perfect record, but the emcee brings enough heat and vitriol to the proceedings to keep heads nodding.
This isn’t lame party hip hop, either, and Diabolic wastes no time in going for the jugular with his mordant, decisive, controversial lyrics. He cracks through a slew of so-called conspiracy theories and lights a few fuses along the way, pushing an agenda of exploration and confrontation that should have the politicians and corporate assholes sweating.
If there’s a problem with the record, it’s that it’s a little too heavy on the guest spots to really reveal Diabolic as his own unit. It stands to reason that Tech and a few others would show up, but Diabolic is sometimes drowned out.
More than anything, though, Liar & a Thief is an exercise in how to turn a phrase. Diabolic’s lyrics are concise, unforgiving, biting critiques of damn near everything on the planet and he’s got just the right tinge of livid determination to push his points to the limit. His flow is conscious and strong-minded, giving each bar purposeful inflection.
After a pretty traditional hip hop opener, the record soars with “Frontlines.” Diabolic is joined by Immortal Technique and the two prove their inclination towards intelligent rhyming with what amounts to a display of vocal fireworks. The beat is ill-omened and the imagery is delicious. And any cut that drops a line like “My heart is blacker than the children of Thomas Jefferson” deserves numerous repeat spins.
Vinnie Paz drops by on “Not Again” and drills away with the typical tense content. The lines come fast and furious over a lethargic beat and Diabolic unleashes a set of riotously savage lines. Paz does his usual shtick, launching into a line about eating dogs like “Asian people” before matching up nicely with Diabolic for the cut’s closing bars.
Other cuts draw out Ill Bill (“Order & Chaos”) and Canibus (“In Common”).
“Reasons” is an album highlight. It scorches with its gore-caked atmosphere and gains a few bonus points for taking a shot at Pumpkinhead, but it’s Diabolic’s ability to tell a visual tale that really makes this shit work overtime.
All in all, Liar & a Thief is a solid debut from one of the underground’s finest. Diabolic spares no one in his unremitting assault, telling visually staggering tales from the streets while firing shots at the coke-snorting suits and bondage-loving politicians responsible for the commotion. While he could have used even more time to himself, the record is a dynamic, powerful, cutting declaration of Diabolic’s skill as an emcee.