The Arsonists 

With the Beatnuts and Greg Nice. Tuesday, June 5, at the Agora.

Released three years ago, the Arsonists' full-length debut, As the World Burns, helped the N.Y.C. hip-hop quintet build a substantial underground following. But apparently, shit got a little too hot when, several months ago, core members D-Stroy and Freestyle left the group amid controversy. According to Freestyle, D-Stroy insisted that the group, which also includes Q-Unique, Jise One, and Swel Boogie, be put on hold for several years while he pursued his solo career. It's hard to imagine that the group, whose highly anticipated follow-up to World is due this summer, will be the same without D-Stroy and Freestyle, especially since D-Stroy's distinctive voice and manic, jabbering style figured prominently in the hooks for tracks such as "Shit Ain't Sweet" and "Shaboing." A casual listen to World reveals that the Arsonists are a versatile bunch, though. The album includes banging club rockers, 36 Chambers-style lyrical workouts, adventurous slices of hip-hop nostalgia, high school emcee battles, and cartoon-inspired monkey business. Their homegrown production, handled mostly by Q-Unique and D-Stroy, is hit-or-miss, resulting at times in classic-sounding stutter breaks and rough, basement studio clunkers. But whatever the album lacks in quality, the group's live show makes up for, as the Arsonists have choreographed purposeful routines for almost each song, and the members all spend at least part of their time onstage manning the turntables.

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