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Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz – Crunk Juice

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

TVT Records, 2005

Sometimes I look at an album that I bought some time ago and think “Why did I buy this?”.  I suppose I had wondered if Lil Jon could actually carry an album.  All I know about him is that he likes to yell out “Yeah!”, “What!”, and “Okay!” on the various songs that he cameos on for other artists.  Perhaps that’s all he says on his own songs, so I could have been terribly curious as to how this would go when I picked this record up.  I also saw one heck of a party on that front cover.  Okay, the East Side Boyz look a little pathetic and the girls, well, they give off the air of being bored.  But look at Lil Jon!  That guy is an animal!  He doesn’t even want to finish his crunk juice as he pours it on the stage (Yeeeeaaayuhh!).  It’s coming back to me now.  I want in on this party.

The “Crunk Juice Intro” claims that this is going to be most incredible experience I’ve ever felt in my life.  I should also sit back, smoke a blunt, and turn the volume way up.  With the terribly echoed vocal effects and stumbling production, I had my doubts of whether or not I should believe the East Side Boyz on this one.  “What U Gon’ Do” starts this self-proclaimed incredible experience with those heavy bass thumps that have to sound great with the car windows open.  As for the lyrical content, ah, I have no idea what is going on.  Apparently if my hos are acting up in a club and I step up to them, they don’t do sh*t.  Yeah!   What!  And if the bitches don’t … oh, you get the idea.  Essentially, make sure the ladies and you are on the same page about your feelings for each other otherwise there could be disillusionment.

“Get Crunk” shows that Lil Jon, who happens to also be the producer for this album, likes to constantly repeat words and lyrics in close proximity.  Whoever the drugged up East Side Boy is that begins the song ends up sounding like he has a stutter thanks to the constant mixing and repeating of his words.  The same thing happens on “White Meat”, which again portrays one of the East Side Boyz as a stuttering spliff-dangling amateur that is neither engaging nor revolutionary.  The only noticeable part of the song is Lil Jon’s bludgeoning delivery on the chorus, which has him railing against his fellow club goers.  It’s no wonder he’s more known for his cameos than his rapping, for his voice is atrociously guttural.  If one wanted to frighten children with a voice that sometimes is manipulated to sound even deeper than it is, thus resembling a certain demon, throw some Lil Jon on.  He’s got that charm.

For the rest of these songs, “Lovers & Friends” attempts to be the slow jam except for that very distracting repetitiveness that Lil Jon keeps doing.  Totally ruins whatever mood was attempted.  I was amused at the practicality of the vocalist when, during his portrayal of a love making session, he offers his girl a pillow to bite.  What a conscientious gentleman!  There’s also “Real N*gga Roll Call” which lays out the rules as to who is real and who isn’t real.  What do people do when they listen to this song and determine that they’re one of the unreal ones?  Where do you go?  I wouldn’t go anywhere near Lil Jon and this East Side Boyz, that’s for sure.  I would leave town.  When Ludacris and R. Kelly show up on “In Da Club”, I’m only mildly disappointed that it isn’t a 50 Cent cover.  Well, there goes any possibility of meager redeeming value for this record.

Lil Jon and his crunkin’ can be found on his website and MySpace, but you probably have better things to listen to anyway.

Alright, honestly, why would anyone listen to this crap?  There are so many better crunk artists, never mind hip hop artists, out there.  And forget the lyrics, there are even better drum ‘n bass artists out there!  Who needs Lil Jon and his hack producing skills?  Those weak beats?  Those annoying East Side Boyz?  This album is garbage and a waste of plastic.  To think that Allmusic.com has labeled this record Lil Jon’s best is just unbelievable.  There is absolutely no reason to go listen to his other records if this one is considered one of his best.  Yeesh.  Oh yeah, this is some serious Golden Trash Can material.  What!

De La Soul – Stakes Is High

July 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Tommy Boy Music, 1996

Aside from their big “Me, Myself, and I” track, the main reason why I fondly recall De La Soul is their “Ring Ring Ring” track from 1991.  Its message about people leeching off of them for their own gains was not as much noticed as the light, catchy hook underneath the lyrics.  Since my idea of enjoyable hip hop is A Tribe Called Quest and the first two albums from the Black Eyed Peas (aka when they were credibly good), I figured that an affordable De La Soul record was going to spin right for me.  I was De La Sold.

According to RateYourMusic, “Stakes Is High” concludes a well regarded quartet of records put out by De La Soul back in the nineties.  I knew nothing of this when I picked it up, but apparently the record came out after one of their main song producers, Prince Paul, departed to do other things.  Regardless of what Prince Paul may have brought, the trio don’t sound like they miss him too much due to a large quantity of really solid tracks.

“Supa Emcees” has a classic swing that can make one bop along to a tune about hip hop posers.  “The Bizness”, featuring an early cameo by Common, has got a simple yet effective bass hook that allows the group to seemingly rap about … I guess … themselves.  Well regardless, tunes like “Dinninit” and “Brakes” keep the good tunes flowing early on.  Overall, the record definitely has a cool, effortless feeling to it that makes it quite listenable.

Given the time frame, I enjoy seeing a few of the cameos from artists just starting off.  Mos Def makes a fine contribution in “Big Brother Beat” while the ladies of Zhane, as in “Hey Mister DJ” Zhane, show up wonderfully on “4 More”.  Truth said, these cameos stand out even more so due to their infrequent number.  There’s only four cameos listed on the seventeen tracks!  Nowadays hip hop artists can’t get away with a cameo-less tune, it seems.  Aside from those (agh) skits.

For all its consistently smooth songs, the title track is the one that really stands out.  It’s got some J Dilla production, the sound of people fervently shaking some dice, and a more upbeat hook.  It turns out to be an aggressive tune about the state of violence, drugs, and poor neighborhoods and how that has translated into the hip hop scene.  That’s how I heard it anyway.  Great tune.

I don’t have a whole lot to knock about this album.  I suppose the only complaint one can have is that the whole record sounds very laid back and, when spun front to back, a few of the songs actually seem to blend together a bit.  But hey, I like laid back.  But most modern hip hop has a really hook-heavy, in your face tune once every three tracks or so.  De La Soul is consistent and, aside from the particularly head-turning title track, most tunes maintain a cool groove.  Perhaps this is what one needs to listen to when they want their hip hop to be chill for awhile.

De La Soul can be heard at their very colorful website or, of course, MySpace and Last.fm.

If the modern sound of hip hop isn’t satisfying enough, or the artists these days all bring the same message, perhaps you could use a listen to De La Soul.  The lyrics make you think, the beats are smooth enough from track to track, and you get the small bonus of listening to something that carries an old school vibe.  Plus, anything that reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest puts me in a happy place.  If for some reason you see some De La Soul lying around in a dollar bin, I highly recommend grabbing them to fill your ears with something good.

RZA – The RZA Hits

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Sony Music Distribution, 1999

Being a middle class suburban book-readin’ gangster, I have heard of RZA.  I know he was one of the more influential hip hop figures in the nineties and he was a member of that Wu-Tang Clan.  See?  I’m protecting my cred neck here.   However, if it can’t already be discerned I am not fluent in what you would say hip hop anthems (not counting “Hip Hop Hooray”).  Therefore, this compilation of Wu-Tang tunes was a must grab to improve my collection’s standing.  Once I finish reviewing this disc, I’m going to slot it next to my other hip hop discs like the Black Eyed Peas and Lauryn Hill.  Yeeeauuuhh.

This compilation of popular hip hop hits contains many familiar tunes by the Wu-Tang as well as the likes of Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.  After three or four songs, the RZA inserts himself and explains what some of the songs were as if he were a disc jockey.  Not an entirely unwelcome interruption, as the RZA does provide some details as to where the song comes from and sometimes speaks casually about how the group put certain songs together.

Wu-Tang classics like “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” and “Protect Ya Neck” are here, as well as the excellent, piano-hooked “C.R.E.A.M.”  I love the raspy delivery of Method Man on his eponymous song, especially the part where he simply spells his own name.  I know, simple, but it’s just catchy enough.  Of all the rappers here, Ghostface Killah definitely comes off as the one with the most force behind his words, as his cameo on Raekwon’s “Ice Cream” is quite impressive.  Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s staggered delivery of “Brooklyn Zoo” illustrates how tantalizing he was when he delivered his lyrics, even if they weren’t always perceptible.  Since there is practically zero filler here given the Wu-Tang Clan’s influence more than a decade ago, this album is chock full of tunes that hip hop fans should just have on hand.

After the main part of the disc concludes with the RZA talking about Wu Wear, surprise, there’s a bonus track about wearing Wu Wear with Method Man and Cappadonna.  I suppose its inclusion makes a lot of sense given that these guys might as well market their own stuff while they have our attention, and I admit, I considered a Wu Tang sweater that resembled a Boston Bruins jersey design.  However, the song itself is not likely going to make a long-term impression for the listener.

RZA even has a MySpace page, but perhaps you’d like to just go directly to Wu Tang’s website for some serious tunes.

This disc, by default, is an automatic keeper given its excellent historic account of some of the greatest hip hop tracks from the nineties.  Obviously, it deserves the Golden Dollar.  As most hip hop fans know, the RZA and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan are still busily putting out records here and there.  The remaining members have already planned a reunion tour in England with Cappadonna and Streetlife, so if you’re over there sipping tea within the next few days, go check ’em out.  It might cost you a coupla dollar dollar bills, thoooough.