If any group is due some success, it’s N.B.S. The Cambridge-based duo of cousins E’Flash and Vee Knuckles have been a constant presence in the area hip-hop scene for nearly a decade, which goes some way toward explaining the hunger they display on their third full-length album, “The Smokefest,” set for release on Nov. 19. Seizing the moment with the brash confidence of veterans, the pair set the tone from the opening title track: “I’m an arrogant [expletive], the flow tough, I’m not bragging I’m sick/ I’m a savage I spit, no wife just married to chips.” They admirably maintain that edge throughout, particularly when pairing with Reks on “Til the World Ends” and Torae on “With the Pen,” before easing into a more relaxed and thoughtful mood on “Last Lyricist Alive.” But they’re too often let down by subpar production that apes on other rappers’ sounds rather than establishing their own; their gruff vocal delivery and slick street talk are wasted on the glossy Auto-tuned “Green Flag Gang,” and “So High” is similarly weakened by a cringe-worthy hook. Still, “The Smokefest” packs some undeniably potent highs, even if there should be more.
Essential “With the Pen”