By this point, hip-hop fans have made peace with live instruments replacing or augmenting turntables and samples: One either loves it, hates it or tolerates it. On their latest full-length, the Midwest Avengers fully embrace this more organic form of hip-hop, although the retooling was partially borne out of tragedy. After the deaths of members Recharge Emcee and DJ Toasty Toast, the Avengers went in a different direction, adding live guitar, bass and drums and mixing more hard rock with their rhymes. While the concept of "rap-rock" is still anathema in most quarters, the Midwest Avengers make it work on Evil Superheroes. The rhythm section's heaviness never gets in the way of the emcees, and there are even touches of light funk ("Ol' Skool Gutta") and electro-jams ("We Rockin' It").
Emcees BC and So'n'So move between spitfire verses and laid-back Southern flow. Like most hip-hop albums, this one runs entirely too long (76 minutes) and is peppered with guest stars. Members of local hip-hop crew the Earthworms drop in for a few tracks, along with members of Mr. I and X-Off as well as a few female vocalists. Phillice Aigner coos along to the chorus of the slow jam "Baby I'm Yerz," but the attempt at a softer, more introspective side falls a little flat. The Avengers fare better with a bit of menace in their sound; both the title track and "Ice Grilla" lay down a bed of crunchy guitar chords and ominous keyboard washes while BC and So'n'So trade off lyrical boasts and mean-streets bravado. Christian Schaeffer
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