Key Kool said back in summer that the new Visionaries album would be an "introspective" one—and it's true, because We Are the Ones is here with beats a little slower and lyrics a little deeper and a title track as anthemic as the Chariots of Fire closing-credits theme. It's less like the previous album's "Pangaea" and "Strike" and more on the vibe of "If You Can't Say Love," with from-the-heart life lessons breaking up boom-bap tracks like "Crop Circles" (good work here by rising producer Polyhedron) and "4wd Motion," which kicks from a Mikey Dread police siren into some of the best patter on the album. 2MEX and Lord Zen usually hold the speed record when it comes to Visionaries flow, but for "4wd" everybody gets good and quick and breathless—then it sudden-stops right into the somber "The Moreye/Reprise," which starts with "You don't have to lose your soul/To get that bankroll" and 2MEX explaining, "I'm just trying to paint a picture of us with limitless horizons still/Try to pay my Verizon bill . . ." That's a characteristic move on a record heavy with a lot of tell-it-like-it-is: We Are the Ones finds moments to worry about parents and children, work in respectful nods to departed artists (done most bluntly in roll call by LMNO for collaborator J Dilla, DJ Dusk and others), and let out big chant-along choruses about keeping the hope/the dream/the spirit/whatever-you-got alive despite (sometimes grimly detailed) struggles. "In the Good" gets the nostalgia well—member-by-member reminiscences on misspent lives with chorus by Ariano and funky production by James Alsander—and single "All We Need" flips the frustration: "Fingers getting blistered from writing the truth!" says Dannu proudly. Then the final suite is where the biggest things happen: posse cut (and Madlib track) "Need to Learn" is a marathon lead into a Rhettmatic/Shortkut aerobics session ("Talkin' Handjive") and colossal closer "We Are the Ones," an everything-at-once track that's righteously desperate and even a little majestic. Chorus and intro: "The love that we have for you/Will always be stronger than the hate that you have for us/So just trust/We are the ones we've been waiting for!" "Conscious" would be a slight way of saying We Are the Ones is fearlessly personal and resolutely idealistic—a set of songs by guys who might not have become teachers, but who still (says Kool on the very first track) do it for the kids.
THE VISIONARIES PERFORM WITH ZION I AND THE GROUCH AND THE CROWN CITY ROCKERS AT THE VAULT 350, 350 PINE AVE., LONG BEACH, (562) 590-5566. SAT., 10 P.M. $16.50. ALL AGES. WE ARE THE ONES OUT THIS WEEK.