Tag Archives: throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday Review: CrazySexyCool | TLC

tlc
BY: EVAN VOGEL

I don’t really know if it’s possible to dislike certain groups. These are the groups that have set certain standards for what music sounds like or maybe simply created music that no one person can resist. Few songs have that effect the way putting “Waterfalls” on in a room full of people does. The drums and synthesized instruments sweep in, in full jazz mode and then are overtaking by some soothingly earnest R&B vocals. When the chorus hits, the trio takes all bets off the table and everyone joins in; it’s fantastic. Now, you know how people say it’s hard to shine on a team full of diamonds? Well, TLC came close to proving that theory right with their sophomore LP ‘CrazySexyCool’.

Just like their name symbolizes an acronym, covering each member of the trio, their album title covers the basis of what is going down on the project. The instrumentals stay precisely timed rhythms with the help of drums and electric pianos. The three members each adds their own vocal flavor to the batter. The real ability lies in how well they harmonize and play off their own strengths. From a more than capable rhyming potential and pitch perfect R&B that has never sounded more 90’s.

It’s important to note, the group was far from genre bending or breaking the rules of what had been set before them but, they did multiply expectation by three and combined skill sets that up until this point were mostly confined to features or collaborations. One of the project’s unique elements is its ability to reflect its title and the energy of its personalities so well. You hear “Creep” and realize that these women are not to be tested, then “Diggin’ On You” sets the light mood of taking in the beauty of a relationship. It’s made all the more interesting as it segways into the ode to backstabbers, “Case Of The Fake People”.

TLC made sure they were themselves. A lot like that group of girls we all knew in high school. Their personalities didn’t quite match but for some reason it worked so well that everyone took notice anytime they were around and together. Grounded yet occasionally funky, this project allows you to jam out to one of the best songs of the decade as soon as it imparts its little wisdoms about love and friendship on you. This album was the seductive stare into your eyes that everyone hopes to have from another person. The title of the LP signifies anything but boredom and therefore points in the direction of intrigue. There’s enough quality R&B material here from the trio that had every right to be the entire 1990’s population’s first crush(es).

8.4

Throwback Thursday Review: Country Grammar | Nelly

Country Grammar
BY EVAN VOGEL

After only recently realizing that ‘The Fix’ was made by Nelly and feeling personally weird about not knowing that after having heard the song multiple times, I felt I had to review some classic Nelly. So here I am, in front of my computer jamming out to Country Grammar. About five songs in and I forgot how great this album is, was and forever will be. Opening with a hilarious skit where Cedric The Entertainer asks Nelly to contact him via multiple pagers, what follows is equally as playful and unique while still being typical.

The second track ‘St. Louie’ is a bouncy tune filled with plucked bass strings and liquid flow from our rapper. He often adds some southern flavor on the ends of his words to synchronize with the twang of the guitar. He essentially describes the broad spectrum of people you would run into in Missouri at the turn of the century. It’s playful, it’s fun and it isn’t as corny as it should be. He really moves into his naturalistic lane on ‘Greed Hate Envy’. Filled with “wooos” and simplistic rhyme schemes that sound more layered than they are thanks to his buttery-smooth delivery. The pitch is noticeably higher and he sounds more involved — to his advantage. It is damn near impossible to rap-a-long to the chorus that couple almost flawlessly with the beat.

Then Nelly continues his string of bouncy instrumentals coupled with equally buoyant rhymes. The silky rhyme scheme on ‘Country Grammar’ is only overtaken by its elementary chorus that we’ve all repeated at least a dozen times. Everytime this song comes on, it’s a party. He relishes in the riches and stereotypes of having money and being a rapper, but it has rarely sounded this great. The instrumentals continue down their pop-rooted trail while Nelly consistently intrigues with his unique vocals and delivery. Even when he’s doing something as trivial as spelling out his city and states it manages to earn its place in the song.

I don’t know many artists better than Nelly boasting an appeal that pulls in listeners from all backgrounds and lifestyles and bring them to the dance-floor. It is completely evident on ‘Ride Wit Me’. This track stands on its own forever. As Nelly peruses riding down an interstate and enjoying nothing but your friends, the car and the pavement it takes you as a listener to a time with your friends living this song out on whatever scale (like without all the money). His appeal is his ability to make doing, really anything, sound fun. Now, given that endearment, it comes with also having upbeat, usually poppy instrumentals. This is where too much Nelly can start to be a bad thing. His flow is often restricted to the same style you heard one, two and three tracks before. Listening through his albums, songs start to meld together.

This isn’t a terrible curse in the way that some artists always sound the same, but rather he just stuck with something that worked for possibly too long of a time. Listening through each song, you’ll be bobbing your head and shouting along with choruses at obnoxious levels but when it’s all over you don’t particularly remember listening to the album. Instead, you remember what you were doing while listening to it. Nelly will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ll go right ahead and say that he is best when enjoyed with friends.

8.6

Throwback Thursday Review: Finding Forever | Common

Finding Forever
BY EVAN VOGEL

There’s no denying Common’s royalty status in hip-hop culture. His street mentality combined with his complex lyrical divulging has made him one of the most respected emcees of all time. The appeal is similar to that of fellow rapper, Nas. They bend stories of love, drugs and watching (or partaking in) gangbanging from street corner to street corner and they take ownership of their words, making their experiences visible to those of us who never lived that lifestyle. Common has always been a strong proponent of social justice and education, often using his albums as outlets to depict the hypocrisies and tragedies inherent in society. This is no exception to his seventh and first number one album, Finding Forever.

No doubt following in the footsteps of his previous album, Be, Common again partnered with Kanye West to try and take their success in stride and keep a solid equation unchanged. And, for the most part, they succeeded. The best thing about Be when it came out, was its fusion of Kanye’s lively, soulful and aggressively sampled beats and Common’s staple vocal presence and wit. Apart, it was no secret that Kanye was an incredible producer and Common was next to none when it came to rapping. The experimentation with that album came only at the cost of however much time they put into it. There was no misstep to be found, it was as though they had found and pulled out King Arthur’s sword together. So naturally, why wouldn’t they think they could do it again?

This time around, it was as though they made the same album in a much grittier part of Chicago, where soundboards were missing knobs and studio walls were covered in mattress foam for insulation. The album sounds great and is produced fantastically, but the beats are harsh and Common is much more aggressive here. As he classifies it on, ‘The Game’, this time, Common is rocking “the demeanor of the ghetto”. The sample game is still strong with Kanye here. On ‘Drivin’ Me Wild’ with Lily Allen, he features a sample of her own voice behind her beautifully elevated chorus and Common’s depictions of a woman obsessed with the gold digger lifestyle and a guy who had no idea where his life was headed. Right after we get a Will.I.Am produced track that samples a classic Bob James song on the smooth, ‘I Want You’. It is darkened by the eerie sense of longing provided by the echoing sample. Words like “linger” and “gone” are released by Common with regret.

The dark grittiness is in full effect when Kanye and Common spit about their hometown in full-defense mode as though their is an army standing at the gates trying to take it, over a distorted guitar riff and separated drum hits. This defense switches to Common stepping back and having more of a realist’s perspective on, ‘U, Black Maybe’. He understands the adversity the black community faces and the obstacle thrown at them in this city they feel tied to. The Stevie Wonder sample is fantastic by the way and Common’s monologue at the end is inspiring, no matter what color you bare. An homage to J Dilla on, ‘So Far To Go’ provides that bit of light this album hasn’t seen much and while it is a great song, it just doesn’t entirely fit well here. Then we get back to West’s productions on ‘Break My Heart’ and its light horns match with Common’s lightly comical words about the journey a relationship takes.

Then we are taken back to the dark, ‘Misunderstood’, city streets of Chicago and end on and incredibly soulful note, where Common again acknowledges the darkness in the world but settles contently on the fact that it will all be alright. This is the beauty behind a person like Common. Time and time again he has put out albums that tread over gang-torn concrete and crumbling communities but knows it’s our city and our world and we are the only one’s who can change it. Through love, awareness and education Common tells us stories that teach, uplift and sound fantastic (Thank you too Kanye).

8.6

Throwback Thursday Review: Low | David Bowie

david-bowie-low
BY: EVAN VOGEL

Relentless experimentation and the subzero breath of spacious lyrics proved to be more than most people were ready for in the late 70’s. The late David Bowie is definitely one of music’s greatest evolutionists, having created over 26 albums worth of content during his time as a practicing musician. He was no stranger to experimentation and was the last person to be afraid of it or how its final yield would be received by mass audiences. His 1977 album Low is the perfect testament to this fact. It was created at a time in Bowie’s life where he was trying to kick his addictive habit of that powdery-white nose candy so prevalent at the time; cocaine. His movement from L.A. to Berlin was perhaps his biggest ally in accomplishing this feat.

The move triggered the dawn of a new creative process within Bowie, who was clearly battling a ton of emotional stressors. The result was a two-sided project that encompassed 11-tracks of music that would go on to change the process of musical production forever. The stark and distorted guitar on album opener, ‘Speed Of Life’ doesn’t even begin to prepare listeners for what is to come. The fantastic effect put on the drums throughout much of the album, noticed on ‘Breaking Glass’ has itself become a staple in modern popular music.

His approach to this album was to keep vocals brief and distant on most tracks, letting the sonics of the instruments have their room to stretch and be absorbed. What lyrics there are, create a sense of longing and forge a path for new discoveries to be made. Each sentence seems to be a fracture of a larger idea and therefore showcase Bowie’s new sense of intrigue and adventurousness. He seems to feel isolated within his newly sober self and is able to take in the little things in life with much more vigor on ‘Sound and Vision’.

“And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision,

Drifting into my solitude

Over my head.”

He ventures from funky croons on tracks like that to the interestingly soulful and catchy delivery of ‘Be My Wife’. Here his message is more organized and yet the piano and energetic guitar chords make his marital grab for another chance seem frantic and uncertain. Sounds continue to overlap and create entire shifts in mood throughout the album, especially noticeable in the second side of the project (tracks 8-11). Being that they are almost entirely void of lyrics, the instrumentals bear a ton of weight, and they manage to hold this weight with unwavering finesse. Even without words they speak to the listeners the same way a movie’s soundtrack can say more than the dialogue ever does.

It is experimentation at its most adventurous and refined. Low is the perfect example of a project that was released years before people could even begin to predict or understand the massive ripple effect it would have on forthcoming generations. I doubt even Bowie or Brian Eno, the producer behind the beautifully ambient soundscapes, had any idea the inspirational shift in music they would be causing years down the road. Simply put, the music on Low didn’t just break the ground, it shattered it into thousands of pieces that became the grains of sand nearly every subsequent musician has walked over.

9.8

Throwback Thursday Review: Just Tryin’ Ta Live | Devin The Dude

Devin The Dude
BY: EVAN VOGEL

Life to most of us isn’t this glamorous enigma that is glorified and talked about by a large portion of today’s mainstream rappers. Rather, most of us are just trying to live day by day and get through it with our head on our shoulders. It isn’t as easy as the ten-percenters make it look, nor is it as hard as the politicians would like you to believe. This middle ground is classified by a search for relaxation and a thirst for comfort that is quenched by the simple things in life. The Dirty South rap artists of the early 2000’s had this lifestyle locked down. More specifically, artists like Devin The Dude were “Feelin’ fine in my Lacville ‘79”, paying no mind to their outdated whip and rather revelling in the fact that its age was correlated to a lower percentage of car theft.

You could say that Devin The Dude was ‘Just Tryin Ta Live’ — he did. His 2002 album, further cements the MC’s relatability to average individual. His verses span from conversational narratives to smoked-out sing-a-longs. The vibe is constrained to only as far as the mind will let it go. This can’t be better explained than listening to the twangy southern guitars and keys of ‘Doubie Ashtray’ with your eyes closed. The first-world problem of having someone help themselves to your weed becomes an extravagant composition that draws out your inner laziness. Oh and he’s pretty damn funny too, ending the song with an exclamation after finding a different bag of weed he must have misplaced.

This lightheartedness is a constant and a gift for Devin. He tackles issues both big and small with an everready sense of comedy and wit. On, ‘Who’s That Man, Moma’ he steps into the audience’s perspective for a few verses about the image of himself he gives his fans and his power over youthful onlookers who want to be him. It’s equal parts touching and hard to take seriously with the incessant marijuana interjections. The instrumental in comprised of a lax bassy-guitar riffing behind separated snare hits. The beats never reach out of their element, which on the musical periodic table is smack-dab in the middle of laid back, down beat, slow tempoed rhythms. Your head can nod while your eyelids slouch, it easy-listening in every sense.

His voice is manipulated within a small range to sound like an airy, southern wordsmith similar to a young Andre 3000. His stories stress the difficulties living in beneath the stressors of money, drugs and women. Never taking this trio of problems too seriously though, he always seems to cover his situation in a haze of weed smoke and that is enough for him. His understanding of the repetitive lifestyles we lead open our eyes to “the grind”. Doing the same thing over and over isn’t leading to anywhere except tomorrow. Tomorrow is fine but to look any further, he closes the album with the idea that, ‘We have to change our ways’. Conscious all while being not. His lyrics travel from the mundane to the briefly intellectual while consistently showing the prowess behind those smoky emissions.

9.0

Throwback Thursday Review: Holiday 2015 Edition: Ceelo’s Magic Moment | Ceelo Green

Ceelo's Magic MomentOn Christmas or in the month preceding it, I never thought of Ceelo Green as a musical staple. I solely thought of him as the jazzy, soulful, freak that wore his personality proudly on his sleeve, and for that I respected him. He was never the type of musician I would listen to when I wanted to hear something mellow and definitely not the type of artists you would consider seasonal. That was until 2012. Somewhere, mixed in with all his sexual and dark exuberance is the capacity to make an incredibly cheerful, upbeat….Christmas album. Yes, a Christmas album people, and it is not the slightest bit bad.

The album consists of all of your parents’ favorite Christmas tunes but they are Ceelo-ified for a new era. For the most part, this project/experiment works wonderfully and if it were not for the sheer fact that it is, truly and simply Christmas music at its core, it would be one of the more memorable projects of the year. But it being one of the more memorable, full-length Christmas albums ever is good enough. He starts this musical sleigh-ride with a re-imagining of the Stevie Wonder classic, ‘What Christmas Means To Me’. Ceelo uses his big voice and technology to his advantage. Everything just sounds more like it sits on a much more grand of a scale.

Replacing Doris Day with Christina Aguilera and taking on the role of Dean Martin, Ceelo Green manages to spice up a classic that until hearing this, I had not thought I would ever question the original’s legitimacy. The range occupied by Aguilera and Green are on a whole different level. His renditions consistently hold this power, of forcing you to question your childhood and the holiday music you were subjected to as Ceelo sincerely and beautifully supplicates for you to, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’. This is quickly followed up by the energetic clatter of drums and piano keys on ‘Run Rudolph Run’. Ceelo’s passionate voice runs over updated Christmas backdrops and it often sounds better than it should for songs that we have all heard more than the voice of our own mother come December 25th.

There isn’t much revolutionary happening here, as it shouldn’t be. It reaches only as far as it likely should and finds a comfortable place around the fireplace between classic and updated. It sounds good and will likely provide people who can’t stand Christmas music a little bit of solace around those who, “Need it damnit!” For the most part, this project evokes a smile and emits good vibes and what more could you want from a Christmas album? If anything, check it out and see if it doesn’t cause you pause when your family asks for Christmas music and passes you the aux this Christmas.

Merry Christmas Ceelo and Merry Christmas to all of you, from all of us here at The Early Registration!

6.7

Throwback Thursday Review: Megadef | Styles Of Beyond

Megadef

Styles of Beyond are like those out of control kids in your neighborhood that kick trash cans over, light fireworks at midnight and tag buildings and signs with spray paint just for kicks. Nothing they do is inherently violent because they are actually decent kids but they like to wield a mask of “I don’t give a shit” when they are together. Be honest with yourself, we have all been or wanted to be those kids at one time or another – and Megadef is their soundtrack. Musically, what this sounds like is tight-aimed verbal aggression spit over hectic wrecking ball beats. This is exactly what Styles of Beyond gave listeners with their sophomore album.

Just like the aforementioned random acts of mischief, Cheapshot and Skully, the groups two DJ’s, cooked up a bevy of hectic, brutal, rock-riddled instrumentals for Ryu and Tak, the MC’s, to machine gun spray with words of caution. Though their lyrical attributions aren’t particularly diverse, they are ripe with energy and linguistic technicalities. Syllables align word to word and bar to bar forming and maintaining a steady head-nodding rhythm. They are definitely skilled rhymers. Consistently referencing the speed and level at which they can spit. From self-declared “freaks of nature” to being the definition of sick, humbleness is wrought by narcissism.

Luckily, their claims are hard to dispute. Partly because their claims sit somewhere between metaphorical assault and murder, but mostly because they are backed by some of the most powerful deliveries of any two MC’s ever. The voices are abrasive enough to sit disguised on a shelf next to 26 grit sandpaper which only helps to add weight to the fist that is this album. The biggest hits though, are owed to the overly medicated instrumentals that incorporate everything from, a The Stooges sample from 1969 to a Bob Marley sampled, ‘Mr. Brown’. The latter of the two an incredibly innocent sounding original; then Styles threw some hard percussive hits on it and turned it into a banger with a dash of age-old soul.

The album isn’t revolutionary and the style isn’t from too far beyond, but it’s definitely high quality music that begs to be heard. Anytime this level of aggression is backed by an equal amount of skill and know-how, there’s something worth listening to. Don’t come in looking for a mapped-out history of the centralization of urban violence in L.A., but rather, listen to the passion and creativity that can stem from such an environment, especially in a time not long after or an area far from the L.A. riots of the early 90’s and prepare to get amped up.

8.1

Throwback Thursday Review: Ceelo Green and His Perfect Imperfections

cee-lo-green-and-his-perfect-imperfections-53ec0f40b0d71
BY EVAN VOGEL

Stepping outside the box in the music industry has always be a risky task. Labels expect their artists to garner mainstream appeal with their records and even fans get weary when they hear about their beloved artist stepping into a new musical lane. So, what better way to overstep these barriers than to form a massive musical collective and develop your own sonic expectations based on what you want to do. That is exactly what Ceelo and his ‘Dungeon Family’ collective of Atlanta-based musicians did. Given complete creative freedom on his solo label debut was the best thing that could have happened to Ceelo.

Ceelo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, left almost no territory untraveled. Everything from blues to rock to hip-hop and gospel has a place on this project. Tried plenty of times before, this formula often ends up sounding like an incohesive mess. Rather than sounding like a confused artist trying to find his place, Ceelo manages to stand out as a man that simply is able to juggle styles with competence and ease.

His voice is his most masterfully wielded tool. Capable of swinging bluesy croons over the working man’s country ballad ‘Country Love’ and modulated, soulful vocal over a funky-guitar riddled track like, ‘El Dorado Sunrise’. His voice, undeniably bluesy and soulful, is the element that allows us to make sense of how this eclectic album works. His rapidly delivered bars and screechy yelps on the intro, ‘Bad Motha’ echo the sounds of funkmaster, James Brown. Not only can the man belt out some incredibly pitched sounds, but damn, the man can rhyme. His adept singing voice make it all the more interesting when you hear him spit some incredibly rhythmic and intellectual bars over the airy instrumental of ‘Big Ol Words’. Incredibly wordy, it comes across sounding like spoken-word poetry at an open mic night was put to music.

The instrumentals were another extension of his weird, expansive style. He essentially handled the entire production of the album himself. It is reminiscent of Timbaland in the way it plays with and combines sounds that very few other people were at the time. There’s really no order to this chaotic album. Its sound will move from funk to heavy rock and back to neo-funk in a matter of minutes, genres be damned. His strengths are illuminated by spotlights and made easily recognizable thanks to his hasty variations in style. It becomes clear that his more mellowed out, soulful tracks are where Ceelo is in top form. It is so apparent that the other tracks begin to feel slightly underwhelming. It’s not that the other songs are bad, they just fail to match the level of beauty that is Ceelo’s voice. Ceelo pulls in so many different directions, even as efficiently as he does it, it still ends up lacking an identity. Even without an identity, the music is competent enough to stand on its own as a collection of well made, genre-blending tracks that more than confirms Ceelo’s status as a future pop-culture mainstay.

8.2

Throwback Thursday Review: Supa Dupa Fly | Missy Elliott

missy-elliott-supa-dupa-fly
BY EVAN VOGEL

Hip-hop, a genre undeniably dominated by men telling stories of their raucous club nights, potent drugs, bodacious women, aggressive tendencies, chaotic love lives, heated rivalries and anything else deemed worthy of putting a pen to paper. Little room is left for the opposite sex under this crowded spotlight and what room there is, is typically overlooked. It hasn’t always been this way though, let’s take a journey back to the 90’s, back to the days of Lil’ Kim, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. All names that anyone who considers themself a fan of the genre should know and respect. Odds are, this is not the case. Why? None can say for sure, but for some reason a negative stigma is readily and unjustly associated with female rappers much of the time. If Mythbuster’s were to do an episode pertaining to the misconception, “men are better rappers than women”, they need only to press play on one weapon in the double x chromosome arsenal. Supa Dupa Fly

Supa Dupa Fly was the debut album of Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott in 1997. The album came at a time when Hip-hop had begun to garner massive mainstream appeal and was crossing any and all ethnic boundaries. It didn’t matter your race, age or social standing; hip hop was cool. It was time for women to show that hip-hop could be made both sexy and hard, simultaneously. Elliott’s album is definitely the manifestation of this idea. Combining almost unfeasibly progressive production from a then, relatively unknown Timbaland and the inventive rhymes emitted from a beautifully smooth voice, became the formula to something revolutionary.

This album altered the course of both hip-hop and R&B forever, in a way that no one could have seen coming. Elliott’s rhymes were intelligent, liberating, humorous and above all unique. Her flow seemed to bounce to the exact digitized cadence of Timbaland’s erratic instrumentals. It’s also important to note that at this time especially, Timbaland was doing things within beats that no other producer had even begun to experiment with. To shamelessly bump a female hip-hop artist in your whip was revolutionary in itself. The hard hitting drums on tracks like: ‘Izzy Izzy Ahh’, ‘Why You Hurt Me’ and ‘I’m Talkin’ beg to be pumped through a stereo and Elliott could ride their hits more capably than any artist you could think to put in her place. She could cut off the air to her stark voice at the immediate end of any word just as easily as she elevates her vocals to the airy clouds of R&B (‘Don’t Be Commin’ (In My Face)’).

Elliott offered a flip to the usual hip-hop script of men rapping about sexual exploits and made one of the most interesting sex songs of all time, plenty thanks to Timbaland. ‘Sock It To Me’ starts off with deep, dooming brass horns and evolves into a juxtaposition of the hard and the soft. A heavy beat accompanied by mysteriously intimate lyrics about creeping into a house for a late night rendezvous. Her versatility is palpable when you listen through the album in its entirety. She skips from slow-jam to eclectic pop to g-funk styles as though there is no separation between them. The outcome is endless entertainment and an irreversible cohesion between different brands of hip-hop and R&B becomes completely apparent, all while that negative female rapper stigma fades into nothingness. If anything regarding your perception of hip-hop has changed since before reading this review, by someone who has no more right than the next person to judge the merits of any composition, I hope that it’s the realization that gender is irrelevant. Music knows no gender. Instead of saying, “She’s one of the best ‘female’ rappers of all time!” Just know, the word “rapper” alone will do just fine.

9.3

Throwback Thursday Review: The Documentary | The Game

The Documentary
BY EVAN VOGEL

Whether you hate it or love it, The Game’s debut album, The Documentary in 2005 brought the grit and recognition back to West Coast gangster rap. Hip-hop’s landscape was already well under construction by the mid 2000’s. Artists with completely new and previously unheard sounds came into the fray. Perhaps concerned with hip-hop’s recent transgression into the mainstream lighthearted playfulness, The Game’s approach was more primitive and raw. His sound was undeniably aggressive and unapologetic, creating a new sound for the streets – or perhaps simply resurrecting pieces of an old one.

The streets lent themselves to all aspects of Game’s persona. From his voice, which could crack pavement to his lyrical hood life braggadocio, nothing sounds like a false front. The most intriguing of this album for me is the juxtaposition of Game’s gritty street life divulgences and the million dollar sound of the production. At the time, it seemed as though everyone was at Game’s side, made evident by the album’s final production credits. Seven productions from Compton godfather, Dr. Dre only to be accompanied by cuts from Kanye West, Timbaland, Just Blaze and Eminem helped to diversify our cohesive view of Compton through the eyes of one of its loneliest sons.

The music traversed a smorgasbord of traditional and more current hip-hop sounds. From the classic g-funk laden synths of “Higher” to the pulsing eclectic rhythm of Timbaland’s handiwork on “Put You On The Game”. Needless to say, there were lots of heads for The Game to impress. And impress he did. He didn’t use intricate lyrical or rhythmic patterns to dazzle, but instead let gangster vernacular fly off the hinges, forming a white-chalk outline of his uncertain path.

It’s lines like, “I find out who sprayed and I’m putting you under the pavement. No Buddhist, priest or Catholic path that can save ‘em.” That instill both the fear and fearlessness of the hood within you. It’s darkly beautiful music that more often than not, you’ll either be bobbing your head or jumping up and down on the rooftops to. The song construction is varied but works best when Game sticks to the verses and passes the authority of the choruses off to 50 Cent and Nate Dogg. I don’t know if it was the presence of all the greatness around him or simply a matter of respect but Game name drops people throughout this album like a person trying to fanboy his way to legend status. Shaq, Yao Ming, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Rakim, Lebron, Randy Moss, Biggie, no one is safe. The name drops don’t necessarily detract from the quality of the album due to their clever use as a timeline of how long Game has been rapping, but they do take up precious space that could have been used to tell more compelling stories.

In the end though, we get all that we came for and much, much more. That resurgence of gangster rap with all its incantations and street hardiness being present. Any skeptics of the West-coast’s relevance were quickly reassured of its liveliness thanks to this album, that sonically, is one of, if not the best sounding album since Dr. Dre’s, 2001 in ‘99.  Who would have thought that such a revitalizing project would come from a bunch of the art form’s biggest influences rallying around someone, who was discovered by Dr. Dre. and at the time was an unknown MC from Compton? Not I, but it most definitely did.  

8.6