Saturday, November 27, 2010

Album Review: "Can-I-Bus" - Canibus (1998)


Remember when I said that 50 Cent was the most polarizing figure in hip-hop? Well, for some odd reason, Canibus is right there with him. I mean, there is absolutely no in between with 'Bis. You either absolutely love him with every fiber of your being, or you despise him beyond belief. That may also depend on whether or not you like Eminem (for obvious reasons), but there are some exceptions.

Anyway, let's flash back to 1997, the year The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered. New York was searching aimlessly for a rapper to replace Biggie as one of the city's jewels. Of course, Nas, Jay-Z, and Mobb Deep were huge at this time, but B.I.G.'s death certainly left a void. Who would fill it? DMX? Nah; he dropped three very good albums far too close to one another, and then he just dropped off the map altogether. The L.O.X.? Nope. They simply didn't have enough material. Same went for the Wu members (in terms of solo projects).

Enter Canibus, a young, fiery, and otherworldly intelligent rapper hailing from Jamaica. In 1997, he made several feature appearances that lit the hip-hop world on fire, including a verse on The Firm's "Desperados," and one on the song that truly jump-started his career, LL Cool J's "4,3,2,1." I think pretty much all of us know the story of Bis' beef with LL, but if not, I'll either enlighten you or refresh your memory.

When Canibus recorded his verse for LL's track, he rapped a line that said, "Yo LL, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that!" (Just to clarify, LL has a tattoo of a microphone on his arm.) For some reason, LL took this as some sort of diss and reciprocated in kind on his verse, which became a diss aimed at Canibus. However, LL told 'Bis that if he would change his verse as to not include the line about his tattoo, he would remove his combative remarks toward him. Well, Canibus agreed, which was when LL Cool J pulled the ultimate bitch move by not holding up his end of the bargain and leaving his assault on the young MC on the track.

Infuriated by LL's cowardly behavior, Canibus recorded the famous "Second Round K.O.," a scathing diss record that stripped LL of his manhood (metaphorically, of course) and effectively destroyed his reputation (don't believe me? Take a look at how severely LL's record sales plummeted after the diss was released in '98). There are actually some people who maintain that LL Cool J won that beef, but said people are, um, idiots.

Despite all of the attention Canibus was getting, he hadn't even released an album yet. Then, Can-I-Bus was announced, and the hype for 'Bis' debut was off-the-charts. Knowing how sick of a lyricist the kid was, no one could wait to hear the Jamaican rip an album full of raw, grimy beats with the illest punchlines and widest vocabulary known to man.

Unfortunately for 'Bis, Can-I-Bus was not received well at all. Critics dubbed the production on the project as being very bland and too "soft" for Canibus' in-your-face style. However, there are also those (like myself) who felt that the album's production was fantastic and that Canibus' lyrical dexterity was enough to make Can-I-Bus a more than listenable affair, anyway.

Now that I've given you a fairly substantial amount of background information (and no; I didn't forget his beef with Em, as that came much later), let's dig into the review.


1. Patriots

The album starts off with a banger co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Danny & Cyrus, and Canibus rips it right from the get-go:
"I'll make your bitch crew shit stools, I'll put a pistol, in your mouth and pull, then I'll feed you to the pitbulls." I think it's blatantly obvious that 'Bis wrote the verse for featured female rapper Free (who gets the second verse), as it sounds like something only Canibus himself could come up with (why not just rap it yourself then, 'Bis?). Anyway, Can-I-Bus is off to an impressive start.

2. Get Retarded
This beat has a county twang to it, as it consists of a guitar strum backed by some thumping kicks and snares, and I love it. The hook on this track certainly serves well in this day and age: "
Nine out of ten of these rap artists is garbage, you spineless, rhymeless, niggas is heartless." I also love the little jab he throws at LL Cool J: "When I bomb shit, I get retarded, probably more than you bargained, I'm talkin' about rippin' mic off your arm shit." Sick, sick track all-around. Salaam Remi produced it, by the way.

3. Niggonometry
This is my favorite track off of Can-I-Bus. The Jerry Wonder and LG co-produced beat is more relaxing than one could ever imagine, and Canibus drops loads of memorable lines, including: "
If you a nigga with a watch, this iced style with enough rocks to make the hottest room temperature drop, how long will it take for you to get robbed? (say what?), how long will it be before you get robbed? (what?)," and, "Now if your song played on the radio for the first time, four days ago, now that shit is rotational, who got paid off to play it? (I ain’t scared to say it), said who the fuck got paid off to play it? (I ain’t scared to say shit)." One of the best cuts 'Bis has ever done.

4. Second Round K.O.
Which brings us to the LL diss, and Canibus' assault just does not seem to end. I mean, the track even features Mike Tyson (he isn't rapping, though), so obviously, 'Bis pulled out all the stops. He gets right to it with his first lines:
"Yo I'ma let the world know the truth, you don't want me to shine, you studied my rhyme, then you laced your vocals after mine, that's a bitch move, something that a homo rapper would do, so when you say that you platinum, you only droppin' clues." 'Bis then kills LL, resuscitates him, and then kills him again here: "Now watch me rip the tat from your arm, kick you in the groin, stick you for your Vanguard award, in front of your mom your first, second and third born, make your wife get on the horn call Minister Farrakhan." Oh my Lord. The banging, hard-hitting beat from Wyclef makes Canibus' attack seem all the more furious.

5. What's Going On
Canibus goes from beefing to peacemaking on this cut (not with LL, though), as he questions why people walk around and get into gunfights, rapping: "I swear, y'all niggas need to chill with that
, bringing your handguns to every God damn club I perform at." The beat, co-produced by Jerry Wonder and LG, is very chill and down to earth similar to that of "Niggonometry." Very good record.

6. I Honor U
'Bis dedicates this track to his mother. While the Jerry Wonder and Wyclef beat isn't exactly nails and the sample on the hook does not go with the production at all, Canibus' lyrics and message supersede those blemishes. Still, him rapping about the sperm cell that fertilized his mother's egg on the second verse was slightly disturbing. Mature, but disturbing.

7. Hype-Nitis
Can-I-Bus presents us with another relaxing beat here, this time co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Joe Servilus.
'Bis spits the ultimate truth about some "friends" on this track: "I know most the niggas I exchange pounds with or lounge with, wouldn't be around if my career was spiraling downward." As you might be able to guess from the song's title, Canibus discusses all of the hype he has built up for himself.

8. How We Roll
Even the naysayers about the beats on this album have to love this one. "How We Roll," produced by Clark Kent, knocks, and it houses what may very well be Canibus' strongest lyrical performance on the album, and that's saying a lot: "
I'm the type of MC, that rocks for the glory, I don't give a fuck if you ignore me or camcord me, freestyle or written, spittin' with infinite ammunition, for anybody tryin' to go the distance, I promise ya no less than a hundred-thousand kilometers, my bomb threats'll have you evacuating your continent, I'm barbaric with the alphanumeric, hittin' you with lyrics that separate your body from your spirit." Later, 'Bis spits: "What I say should be displayed at the Smithsonian, your rhymes are phonier than cubic zirconias." Just stop, 'Bis. Stop. Actually, no; don't.

9. Channel Zero
Well, this one is a little strange, as Canibus spends "Channel Zero" rapping about aliens. Don't get me wrong; he absolutely kills this lyrically, but you can't help but chuckle a little bit when listening to this.

10. Let's Ride
A Kid Called Roots (no; that's really his name) and Wyclef lay out a beat that certainly lives up to the track's name; this definitely is something you can ride to. 'Bis, to the surprise of no one, raps some sick lines: "Whenever I'm rappin' or rhymin
', with irrefutably remarkable timin', I'm like, Charlie Chaplin pantomimin'." The hook on this track is different after every verse, and each one is pretty enjoyable, as an artist named Pro adds a nice reggae element to the track, and Wyclef and Pras (of the Fugees) drop some adlibs each time. I didn't really like this cut at first, but it has grown on me.

11. Buckingham Palace
Banger. Banger. Banger. Throw this on in your ride, and you'll see what I mean, as the drums on this thump, and the Indian-flavored background just makes it all the more better. Canibus is vicious on this record, spitting: "What's the difference? Y'all niggas still ain't in lyrical fitness
, too busy mixin' your business with your bitches, while I be in the lab composing forbidden scriptures, so wicked I got, Satan ejaculating on his fingers." Damn. This is one of Can-I-Bus' most popular songs, and with good reason. "Buckingham Palace" was co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Wyclef.

12. Rip Rock
Okay Canibus; what the hell is this? You give us an entire album of sick tracks, and you decide to end it with this? Basically, this is a rap/rock mashup, and it is absolutely horrendous. There is a very good chance the beat will give you a seizure. I seriously want to know what in the living hell 'Bis, Jerry Wonder, and Wyclef were thinking when they got into the studio and recorded this garbage. Terrible, terrible way to end the album. Fortunately, the rest of Can-I-Bus was good enough where I can almost forget this.


Say what you want, but Can-I-Bus is a classic. That's right; I said it's a classic. You are not going to find many albums with lyrics this deep or punchlines this eviscerating. The way I see it, only two artists can even compare to Canibus lyrically, and they are Pharoahe Monch (who I believe is the all-around best lyricist of all-time) and Chino XL; that's it. You can make a case for someone like Killah Priest or Ras Kass, but even that's pushing it, as 'Bis is simply on another level entirely.

For those who complain about the production on this album? Well, I'm not really sure what they're hearing, because I think the beats on Can-I-Bus are terrific. Are they all suitable for Canibus' aggressive persona? Maybe not, but 'Bis displays the ability to kill any beat, even "Rip Rock" (as bad as that song was, Canibus managed to hold his own). I am the type that can really appreciate laid-back production, so a lot of the cuts on this project ("Niggonometry, "What's Going On," "Hype-Nitis," etc.) really put me in a zone.

I really do not understand why Canibus has so many detractors. I mean, you'd really have to be some kind of moron to deny that this dude has ridiculous talent, arguably more than any rapper that has ever graced the face of the earth. Maybe it's because a lot of people aren't actually intelligent enough to comprehend what he is saying, because, for some people, a single bar by 'Bis will have them fumbling for a dictionary in a matter of seconds. Oh, and a warning to all rappers out there (looking at you in particular, Royce Da 5'9"): do not diss Canibus. It is essentially a death wish for your reputation (see: LL Cool J, and even Eminem to an extent).

When I tell people that Canibus is the best to ever do it, they look at me like I'm growing a second head. Well, maybe you should actually listen to some of his stuff before you are so quick to judge, because, to put it plainly, Canibus is ill.

End of discussion.


1. Niggonometry
2. Second Round K.O.
3. Buckingham Palace
4. Get Retarded
5. How We Roll


Rip Rock

Friday, November 26, 2010

Album Review: "Boy Meets World" - Fashawn & Exile (2009)


Now for one of the most hyped and critically acclaimed debut albums in hip-hop history. That's right; I said history: Boy Meets World, by Fashawn & Exile.

The album is similar in formula to Blu's Below The Heavens, as Exile produces the entire project, and Blu, like Fashawn, possesses outstanding mic presence and exudes confidence in the booth. You should recall that in my
Below The Heavens review, however, I stated that Exile's production was a bit bland and that that aspect detracted from the overall product. This is certainly not the case on Boy Meets World, as Exile's beats on this album are nothing short of spectacular.

The jury was out, however, on Fashawn's rapping abilities. Could he go through an entire LP without any major hiccups along the way? He had released numerous highly-praised mixtapes prior to his official debut, but, as we all know, an album is an entirely different animal. Thankfully for Fashawn, a 22-year old hailing from Fresno, California, Exile brought his "A" game to the table for Boy Meets World, unlike on Below The Heavens where Blu was forced to carry nearly the entire LP by himself, resulting in a (in my opinion) less-than-desirable project overall.

So, let's see why Boy Meets World, which has actually been compared to Nas' Illmatic (Fash actually put out a mixtape called Ode To Illmatic several months later, by the way), has become so revered in hip-hop circles. I mean, to draw comparisons to what many consider to be the best rap album ever, it must be pretty damn good, right?


1. Intro

I'm pretty sure I've expressed how much I dislike album intros in the past, but this one, unlike the good majority of other album intros out there, is actually a song, albeit a short one. Exile's beat bangs, and Fashawn displays that he is more than capable of putting on a show behind the mic, spitting: "Came out the womb in '88, landed on this planet, CA, the sunshine state, oblivious to the problems I'd soon face." I bet he was also oblivious to the fact that he would become a hip-hop legend overnight.

2. Freedom
I guess you can call this the first "real" cut on the album. Using a sample of Black Star's "Definition" on the hook, the beat to this track is sick, as are Fashawn's opening lines: "My patterns is unmatched, I leave MC's hunchbacked with one rap, guaranteed no comeback, I run laps around 'em, roll like Dunlap tires, made a lot of niggas retire, I be ya highness." This album is off to a great start.

3. Hey Young World
And the phenomenal start continues. Exile comes through yet again, laying down a lighthearted, piano-driven beat for Fashawn and guest artists Aloe Blacc and Devoya Mayo (whose appearance toward the end of the cut is actually pretty useless, to tell you the truth). While a good portion of Boy Meets World is fairly, um, depressing, "Hey Young World" delivers a positive and upbeat message to its listeners, as Fashawn raps:
"Who's to say, 5 years from now, where you'll end up, CEO of your own business, or, a movie star an award winner, gotta, go for it can't be timid, nah, live out the phrase the sky's the limit."

4. Stars
"Stars" packs yet another light, but extremely effective, beat by Exile, but while this song is four minutes and twenty-nine seconds long, Fashawn raps for less than half of it, as the remainder of the track consists of the instrumental with Aloe Blacc occasionally crooning the hook. Then, you just hear a bunch of people talking over the last 41 seconds. I really hate it when that happens. Nevertheless, Fashawn's two verses are solid, and the beat is very good.

5. Life As a Shorty
Fashawn essentially tells his life story over three verses on this track (which happens to be the album's lead single), first talking about growing up in a trailer, then about how insufficient he was in school, and, finally, about his first love who cheated on him. Exile's beat, while actually somewhat "cartoonish," if you understand where I'm coming from, is pretty good, and female singer J. Mitchell puts forth a solid performance on the hook. Nice track overall.

6. The Ecology
Dare I say that this record has a Wu feel to it? Exile lays down a banger of a beat backed by thumping kicks (the kicks and background shakers actually reminds me a bit of "Pearly Gates," and I think we all know how infatuated I am with that beat), and Fashawn paints a picture of what street life is like and how it can affect your life. "Those who took heed were the ones who succeeded, the ones who didn't wound up sharing showers, the strong move silent, the weak get devoured, too many fake hustlers, the drug game is sour, rather live like an animal than die like a coward," spits Fashawn. Really dig this cut.

7. Our Way
I'm not crazy about this track at all. I know that choppy beats are an Exile trademark, but "Our Way" takes that to another level, and it's not very flattering. Fashawn does not sound comfortable at all, as he has no choice but to pause between bars here and there to complement the beat. Evidence of Dilated Peoples drops by to rap a guest verse, but he adds nothing to this fairly weak song.

8. Why
The album gets back on track here, as Exile lays down a simply incredible production for Fashawn, who ponders about all of his life decisions as well as those of others. "I do what I do, live how I live, it is what it is, but, I told my mama I would change, but it's clear I'll always be the same," he says on the hook. "Why" is definitely one of my favorite records off of Boy Meets World.

9. Samsonite Man
This is one of the album's most popular songs, and judging by its bouncy production (Exile, you did it again, homie) and upbeat feel, one can easily see why.
"I go where the wind takes me, Samsonite bag full of clothes, like Jack hit the road, to the next city, fuck it, let’s travel the globe, luggage already packed, who knows when I’ll be back," raps Fashawn on his first verse. Blu makes a guest appearance and drops a solid verse of his own, but it's the production that truly carries this track.

10. Father
Man; this song is phenomenal. Fashawn wonders about the pain and struggle involved in life and why God allows it, so he then has a conversation with God, and at the end of said conversation, he quietly says: "Now if the world should end tomorrow, Lord have mercy on me, and if the sky should fall and the walls come tumbling down, tumbling down." Introspective as hell. Love it.

11. Sunny CA
The beat is hot and Fashawn impresses, but the two guest appearances by Co$ and Mistah Fab make me want to shoot myself; not necessarily because of their lyrics, but because of their flow and voices. Co$ flows disturbingly similarly to Lil Wayne, and Mistah Fab's ridiculously hoarse voice is bordering on Young Jeezy territory (neither of those are good things, just to let you know).

12. Bo Jackson
I'm still wondering why Fashawn decided to name a song after Bo Jackson (who was a professional football and baseball player, for those of you who may not know), but whatever. Exile's beat is pretty solid, and Fashawn is spitting: "One rhyme, will stimulate your mentals, think for certain, ain't even heard the second verse yet." Oh, and Exile raps on this, and he's actually pretty good (his voice is pretty sick). Solid track overall.

13. Lupita
This beat is so unusual and, at the same time, so ill. Fashawn raps about a girl named, um, Lupita, and he basically takes us all back to our middle school crush in the process (not that I actually want to relive that). The hook here is great, and the end of the track made me laugh a bit, as after all of Fashawn's fantasizing and love notes, Lupita ends up rejecting him. I have two problems with this cut, though: 1.) I'm pretty sure I've said this on this blog before, but, for God's sake, "conversate" is NOT A WORD, and two 2.) can someone please explain to me what the hell the last one minute and eight seconds of this record was supposed to accomplish (see: "Stars.")? If the idea was trying to work into the following track, "When She Calls," it wasn't very effective, because the two songs are completely unrelated.

14. When She Calls
Which brings us to the ultimate low and high point of Boy Meets World, low in that the subject matter is unbelievably depressing, and high in that this song is absolute genius and is, in my opinion, the best cut on the album. Let me start by saying that Exile's beat, which samples "Cosmia," by Joanna Newsom, is outstanding beyond belief. It will put you in a trance. Now, on to the track's content. On "When She Calls," Fashawn tells a story about his friend who committed suicide because his girlfriend cheated on him. The genius part, however, lies within the fact that the record contains three alternate endings. In Fashawn's first verse, he raps in first person, and at the end of the verse, he is prepared to slit his wrists, but his phone rings, so he drops the knife and answers. In the second verse, he spits in the form of third person, and just as the person whom he is talking about is about to kill himself, his mother calls and tells him to come home, and he reluctantly agrees. Finally, in Fash's third and final verse, he once again spits in third person, but this time, the person goes through with killing himself, as his girlfriend wakes up to the news the following day. Now if you have a tendency to get into very fragile emotional states and have experienced this sort of thing before, I can honestly tell you that it is probably best to not listen to "When She Calls," because it seems all too real (it actually was a true story) and is severely depressing. Otherwise, "When She Calls" is an absolute classic and is certainly one of the best tracks I heard in 2009.

15. Boy Meets World
If you have the patience to sit and listen to a 10-minute song, that's your prerogative, but I don't, as good as this song is. That said, you can just listen up until the 5:07 mark, as at that point, Fashawn just talks for the remainder of the cut. It's not like you'll hear anything new, though, as "Boy Meets World" essentially sounds like a repeat of "Life As a Shorty," as Fash is describing his upbringing. As per usual, the beat by Exile is very good.

16. The Score
"The Score" is the first of three bonus cuts on the album. Although Exile's production here might seem to be a bit "busy," it's still pretty good. "I maintain with a brain so brolic I could benchpress a train through the knowledge, I came and I conquered," raps Fashawn. Planet Asia raps a guest verse, and he holds his own. Good song overall.

17. Breathe
Someone needs to tell Exile that using a sample of a country song as the hook of a hip-hop song is never a good idea. Overall, the beat to "Breathe" is sick, clearly one of the best on Boy Meets World, and the "breathe" adlibs from said country singer throughout the track actually add a great touch, but my God; the hook is overdoing it. It's just annoying. Anyway, a dude named Bravo makes a guest appearance and, for the only time on the album, actually murders Fashawn on his own ish. His entire verse is ridiculous, especially his delivery on said verse, and is one of the best verses on Boy Meets World, bar none.

18. The Outer City
The kicks on this track are nice, but the rest of the beat is fairly bland. Fash's flow on it is nice, but other than that, meh.


Although it is still far too early to rank this album up there with Illmatic, Boy Meets World is an incredible, incredible project. Unlike on Below The Heavens, Exile's production here is astonishingly good, and Fashawn, with his varying subject matter and likeable demeanor, does a much better job of holding the listener's attention than Blu.

Do people get a bit carried away with how good this album is? Maybe. I think a fairly significant flaw that Fashawn has is that he has virtually no vocal variety whatsoever; his voice sounds the same on every track, regardless of the content. Obviously, this is a correctable problem, but whether or not Fash actually does fix it is the question.

I am not going to question Fashawn's capability as a lyricist, however. He has clearly mastered his craft in that area, and his flow and delivery is also top-notch. You rarely find an artist who possesses both good lyrical skill and impressive delivery, but Fash is blessed with both qualities.

Another aspect of Boy Meets World that I really like is Fashawn's ability to look at life from every side of the spectrum. While some of the songs (a la "When She Calls") contain depressing and melancholic subject matter, others are simply introspective ("Why," "Father"), and the remainder of them are positive and uplifting ("Hey Young World," "Freedom").

Boy Meets World has definitive replay value and is a very enjoyable listen all the way through every time. Go ahead and give this a listen if you haven't yet; I doubt you'll be disappointed.


1. When She Calls
2. Breathe
3. Why
4. Father
5. Lupita


Our Way

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Album Review: "Spirit of '94: Version 9.0" - Kaze & 9th Wonder (2005)


Kaze is quite possibly the most overlooked rapper I have ever come across, and "overlooked" might be an understatement, as only one person I know has ever even heard of the North Carolina rapper. For the other 99.9% of you, I'll give you a little rundown.

Kaze's rise out of anonymity (even though he is still pretty much anonymous) began when he produced the television show Hip-Hop Nation back in 2001. This was shortly after he founded an organization of the same name at the University of North Carolina, where Kaze attended school.

After getting the show out, Kaze created his own record label called "Soul Dojo," where he would release his first album, Spirit of '94, in 2003. Spirit of '94 is not the album I will be reviewing, however. 9th Wonder remixed said album, leading to Spirit of '94: Version 9.0 in 2005, and that is the project which I will be discussing here.

Of course, anything that 9th Wonder touches generally turns to gold, but while 9th's production on Spirit of '94: Version 9.0 is arguably one of the greatest pieces of work he has ever done, it is Kaze's outstanding rapping ability that makes the record so phenomenal. Like Edgar Allen Floe, Kaze possesses a booming voice (that actually sounds a bit like Rock from Heltah Skeltah) and ridiculous flow to go along with it. However, as much as I love Edgar Allen Floe, Kaze is probably a step or two higher in terms of pure skill.

So, unless you have any concerns (which, even if you did, it wouldn't matter because I can't hear you), let's get to that review, shall we?


1. For The Record

"I live my lifestyle the realest in this world of confusion, cash, cars, women, and drugs act as illusions," spits Kaze to open up
Spirit of '94: Version 9.0. That said, although Kaze spits fire here, "For The Record" is actually one of the weaker beats on the album.

2. Locked In Chains 

Khrysis was actually behind the boards for this one, and he lays down a head-nodder that Kaze effing rips: "Shit is hectic, my money gone as fast as I can get it, might as well admit it, you don't believe, line up a couple thugs and have 'em watch how I spit it, jurisdictions try convictions but I end up acquitted."

3. 50/50 Amp
Now is when things really start to heat up. 9th puts down one of his best beats on the album on "50/50 Amp," an upbeat joint that Kaze, of course, kills: "Low speakers, hot tracks, Puerto Ricans, whites, blacks, spit truth and face facts, I'm rugged, never cut slack." Great track to bump in your ride.

4. Should've Been Here
This is a hell of a cut, without a doubt one of the best on Spirit of '94: Version 9.0. Honestly, this is one of those songs that can actually bring a tear to your eye if you can relate to what Kaze is rapping about (and chances are, you can), as he talks about his deceased mother. The production by 9th is incredible, as you wouldn't be able to find a more suitable beat for this track. Kaze raps on the hook: "To all my niggas, don't cry or wish to die 'cause your loved ones gone, 'cause they alive every time y'all niggas bump this song." I legitimately think this is one of the best songs of all-time.

5. Spirit of '94
And the sick beats from 9th don't stop. It's hard to follow up the all-around flawlessness of "Should've Been Here," but "Spirit of '94" holds its own, as Kaze spits some ill (and funny) lyrics: "And teachers rippin' actin' mad as fuck, because I'm gettin' straight A's with D's in conduct." Nice, nice cut.

6. Soul Dojo (Essence Of Life Mix)
This song was also on 9th Wonder's Dream Merchant, Vol. 1 album. It was one of the best cuts on that project, and it's one of the best on this one, too. 9th's beat is mind-bogglingly soulful and alone is enough to put someone in deep thought. Kaze spits on the hook: "If the soul is the essence of life, man I've gotta treat my body like a temple, I'ma flow through the dojo." He then raps on his first verse: "Still refuse to lose or be controlled by society, black man, pigeonholed, feds stay eyein' me, struggle with your mentals 'til the world see with clarity, chose music as my yellow-brick road to prosperity." Whew.

7. Stay a Customer
This is a typical, typical 9th Wonder beat, and I don't mean that in a bad way. "Stay a Customer" contains banging kick drums and that trademark 9th snare, and Kaze gives the beat life behind the mic: "You need a certified connection, a vest full of protection, a small corner town where you can block off perfection." This cut is a bit more violent in nature than the rest of Spirit of '94: Version 9.0.

8. Waiting To Exhale
Per the title, 9th's beat actually contains some deep breathing noises (which can seem creepy at first, but you get used to it) over some hard-hitting drums and a booming sample. Ak Slaughter makes a guest appearance, and while he isn't bad, he pales in comparison to Kaze. Anyway, this is your typical smoking song. There honestly isn't much substance to it.

9. What's Good?
9th puts down a very relaxing beat, and Kaze raps to a girl whom he desires. Pretty straightforward.

10. Last Laugh
Love this one. 9th's beat is crazy, consisting of banging drums and a constant vocal sample in the background, and Kaze's flow over said beat couldn't possibly be any more perfect. One of the strongest tracks on the project. Also, it should be noted that "Last Laugh" actually represents the last 9th Wonder-produced cut on Spirit of '94: Version 9.0, as the final three songs are bonus tracks that were on Kaze's 2004 Enemy Of The State mixtape.

11. Soul Dojo (Enemy Of The State Mix)
This is the original "Soul Dojo," as it was present on the aforementioned mixtape. It contains the same exact lyrics as the "Essence Of Life Mix"; the beat is just different, and said beat is not nearly as good as the one on the "Essence Of Life" version. Don't take that the wrong way, though, as this beat is still very good.

12. On
Oddly enough, the best beat on the album was not produced by 9th Wonder. This is a K-Hill production, and it bangs. The vocal sample is ill (one of the best I've ever heard), as are the heavy drums. Kaze adapts his flow to the tempo of the beat and rips this: "Half of these rappers they chosen disasters, they sound like them grown folks on Charlie Brown." The hook on this is especially sick. This is the best track on Spirit of '94: Version 9.0 and one of my favorite songs of all-time, period.

13. Move Over
Another K-Hill beat, another banger. Nature joins Kaze on this joint, but, unsurprisingly, Kaze is the one that takes center stage, rapping: "Get up out of my chair, about to wash all these bitch niggas outta my hair," then spitting, "I spit airborne sicker than SARS, continuous bars, will leave your body covered with scars." This dude is just crazy.


Spirit of '94: Version 9.0 is one of the best albums of the 2000s, without question. 9th Wonder's production on this record is pretty close to flawless, and Kaze's lyrical ability and technical skills are top-notch. This project is ideal to listen to while you're chilling or cruising.

Up until this point, the original version of Spirit of '94 and the 9th Wonder remix of that album are the only two LPs Kaze has released. However, he recently signed a deal with SRC/Universal Motown, and a new album is said to be in the works (as a matter of fact, he dropped a single called "Fresh," produced by 9th Wonder, in 2009, and it was sick). He has put out several mixtapes over the course of his career, though, and all of them are well-worth checking out (I'm sure I will be reviewing some on this blog in the future).

It is very clear that Kaze has unworldly talent, and one can only hope that his new record company does everything in its power to market him and starts putting out material by him, as he is, in my opinion, one of the better rappers in the game. Actually, as much as I love The Justus League (which Kaze is not a part of), I legitimately think that he is decisively better than anyone out of that camp, and that is saying a lot given my infatuation with that collective.

To wrap things up, do yourself and hip-hop a favor and get Spirit of '94: Version 9.0. It is a classic in my mind.

1. On
2. Should've Been Here
3. Soul Dojo (Essence Of Life Mix)
4. 50/50 Amp
5. Last Laugh


The hell do you think this is? A Lil Wayne album?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Album Review: "Below The Heavens" - Blu & Exile (2007)


Upon request, I have listened to Below The Heavens, an album by rapper Blu and producer Exile. Before listening to this project, I had heard so many good things about Blu. I had heard a couple of songs by him here and there, but, admittedly, I never really sat down and gave him a good, long listen.

As far as Exile goes, I am very familiar with his work. I think he is easily one of the game's best producers. He indulges in heavy sampling, and sometimes, he chops his samples so precisely and interweaves them so deftly that they are unrecognizable. The first time I heard Exile was on the Mobb Deep "Pearly Gates" track off the Blood Money album, and I thoroughly professed my love for said beat here on my Blood Money album review.
The beat was nails, and from that point on, I have openly searched for any beats that Exile has cooked up.

So, naturally, I was pretty pumped going into listening to Below The Heavens, as an entire 15-track album produced exclusively by Exile is like stumbling upon a goldmine (I was expecting a project similar to the incredible Boy Meets World album by Fashawn, also produced entirely by Exile). Because I already knew what Exile could do, my main concern while listening to this project was Blu's rapping skills. Everyone kept telling me how sick this dude was, but for some reason, it took a review request for me to actually do it.

Anyway, let's do it up.


1. My World Is

The album begins with a banger, and Blu rips this to shreds, particularly on the third verse:
"And my mission's just beginning call it Genesis, I'm God's eye messenger but, the devil's nemesis it's no better predicament, I'm straightening out the facts 'cause you twistin' it, nigga this a Bridgetown crown rocker, not a fake affiliate." Nice way to open things up.

2. The Narrow Path
Exile lays down a solid head-nodder here, throwing on some great kicks and booming hats. Blu's flow is great on this cut, especially on these lines in the first verse:
"These ladies play dirty games with you, get to grindin', where niggas pitch as quick as Nolan Ryan, holdin' iron, blowin' smoke, elope in fire, flame spittin'." Decent record.

3. So(ul) Amazin' (Steel Blazin')
As the name states, this track contains a soulful beat, and Blu spits fire over it: "My mind's sickening,
define vicious written in rhymes times tens, to describe how my line's ending, your fine imprint, described through your mind's index, my line chin-checks and shine through your blinds, instant, the sun syndicate fat as 'Biggie' with no 'Pun' intended." Love the wordplay at the end there.

4. Juicen' Dranks
Sorry, but what the hell is this crap?

5. In Remembrance Of Me
Now that we got that brainfart by Blu and Exile out of the way (I'm still trying to figure out what in the world they were thinking on that last track), I have to say that Blu's lyrical content on this cut is incredible. Essentially, he is rapping about how quickly the days go by, reminiscing about the times he had during his youth along the way. Exile's beat suits the mood.

6. Blu Colla Workers
Here, Blu basically talks about how he's broke and how he can't even afford to take a girl out to dinner. The beat is alright.

7. Dancing In The Rain
"Dancing In The Rain" is the definition of a head-banger. Exile lays down some consistent snares and even some Spanish guitar strums along the way, the latter of which adds a very nice element to the beat. Once again, though, Blu talks about how poor he is.

8. First Things First
This track contains what is easily the best beat on the album, as Exile produces an upbeat number with banging kick drums for Blu to rap to a girl he digs over. R&B singer Miguel makes an appearance here and aids Blu on the hook. Still, while I really like this cut (it's my favorite on the album), Blu, for the third straight song, talks about he has no money, and if I hear him rap about how he doesn't have a car again, I'm gonna lose it. I should point out some of Blu's good lines here, though, like: "I, know it's irrelevant, but rap is my profession
, and just 'cause I'm a gentleman, don't mean I'm into settling, I spend most my time on the grind, but I ain't peddling rocks, or trying to sign to the Roc, I'm trying to meddle in my own business."

9. No Greater Love
First things first (like how I did that?), the beat on this track is sick. When Exile brings it, he effing brings it. Blu's delivery is pretty crazy, too:
"But the beauty even doubt the beast and I can't be without (love), it's by far the most dangerous subject to touch yet, you be acting like it's lust? Yeah right, would lust have you up at five writing a text? Trying to get a thought up off of ya chest." Great, great record overall.

10. Good Life
The beat by Exile is a little awkward, but Blu and guest artist Aloe Blacc both drop some realness, rapping about certain situations in their lives and how they wish they were different. The first verse, done by Blu, is the best, as he worries that he got a girl pregnant and has no clue how he is going to provide for his potential child: "What the fuck am I supposed to do when he's telling me, Dad I need some food'? I'm looking down at my stomach and mine is grumbling too."

11. Simply Amazin'/Soul Rising
I've seen this track featuring two names, so I just listed both. Exile lays out some solid production for Blu, who spits the ultimate truth: "Your spirits is swayed
every time my lyrics is played, so please stop givin' these lyricists praise, 'cause they bluffin' while they bustin' with a serious face, and it's unbearable, these stereo-rap tracks are terrible."

12. Cold Hearted
On this cut, Blu pays homage to his mother who was abused by his father, and his friend who was shot and killed. You can certainly feel the emotion here from Blu. That said, Exile's beat is pretty subpar and, in my opinion, takes away from the feeling.

13. Below The Heavens, Pt. 1
This song was clearly inspired by Nas' "The World Is Yours," as Blu even rips the hook from the Illmatic classic and raps it himself (not that there's anything wrong with that). For one of the few times on the album, Exile drops a banger; this is certainly one of his best beats on Below The Heavens. Blu flows well over this, rapping:
"Be a star out your game, aim above the clouds, and if you miss, you'll at least be amongst your own crowd." The crazy production by Exile is what makes this cut go, though.

14. Below The Heavens, Pt. 2
This isn't really a song, as it just consists of Blu throwing out some shoutouts. That said, the nice, smooth beat production Exile cannot be ignored.

15. I Am...
"I Am..." is seven-and-a-half minutes long, with the beat, expectedly, changing up about halfway through. The first beat is pretty bland; the second one is solid. This isn't bad, but I just don't have the patience to listen to a song this long.


Overall, Below The Heavens is a decent album. It's clear that Blu possesses outstanding rapping ability, but he sometimes gets a bit too repetitive with his material (I can't even count the number of times he talked about not having a car; I'm pretty sure I touched on that earlier, too), and his hooks are fairly cheesy, too. Still, with his talent, he can easily remedy both issues.

I have to say that I was very disappointed with the production by Exile here. There are no "Pearly Gates" type cuts on this, and the only beats that I really enjoy are "First Things First," "No Greater Love," and "Below The Heavens, Pt. 1." Other than that, the rest of the production on Below The Heavens is very flat, and I never thought I would use the words "Exile" and "flat" in the same sentence up until now.

Again, it is evident that Blu has ridiculous potential as an MC. He is certainly a very intelligent individual and uses that to his advantage in his rhymes. He just needs to open up his content a bit more and talk about different subjects. Rapping about how broke you are might fly on one track, maybe even two, but doing it for the better part of an entire album just grows tiresome for the listener. I will definitely search for some more of Blu's material now that I finally listened to Below The Heavens so I can possibly formulate a stronger opinion of him, because right now, I am pretty torn as to how good he actually is.

As far as Below The Heavens goes, I can certainly see a lot of people liking it, but I think it pales in comparison to Fashawn's Boy Meets World, mainly because of the production portion of it. Me personally? I'll probably just listen to a few cuts off of it from here on out. I definitely won't be bumping the full album on any kind of regular basis.


1. First Things First
2. No Greater Love
3. Below The Heavens, Pt. 1
4. My World Is
5. In Remembrance Of Me


Juicen' Dranks
Blu Colla Workers

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Album Review: "Sleepers" - Rapper Big Pooh (2005)


As I'm sure most of you already know, Rapper Big Pooh comprises half of the duo of Little Brother. However, he rarely gets his due as, for some reason, most people seem to prefer the duo's other half, Phonte. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Phonte is much more vocal and gets his face out there much more than Pooh, but if you're going to tell me it's because 'Te is simply superior on the mic, I will spit in your face (okay; not really, but I will argue with you to the death about it).

Unlike Phonte, though, Big Pooh is the only Little Brother member to put out solo albums. 'Te did form a group called "The Foreign Exchange" with producer Nicolay and has put out three albums with him, but two of the projects are R&B records. Not that there's anything wrong with R&B, but, as good of a voice as 'Te has, I know him as a rapper; not a singer.

Anyway, going back to the original point, Pooh's debut album, appropriately named Sleepers for reasons mentioned above, is an absolute classic. Yes; I said classic. I have always considered him to be the stronger of the two Little Brother members, and he displays that on this project, which I will be reviewing now.


1. I Don't Care
Actually, I didn't care too much for the album's opener, which I think is certainly the worst track on Sleepers. The reason being is that Khrysis' production is pretty blah (but believe me; he makes up for this one throughout the remainder of the project). Pooh does drop some solid lines, though:
"Right now what we have is a world premier, new and exclusive shit, so sincere, be prepared, I'm nice wit this mic device, other niggas do joints and it don't suffice."

2. The Strongest Man 

9th Wonder produces a sick, feel-good cut here which became the album's first single. Pooh flows marvelously over this, spitting: "When your boy Rapper's here, ain't no need to fret, don't worry 'bout givin' cause I'm takin' respect."

3. Heart Of The City 

The second 9th beat on Sleepers is another winner, as the Grammy award-winning producer lays down a great soulful beat for Big Pooh, who phenomenally paints a picture about the struggles of inner-city life. This is one of those cuts that you really have to listen to to fully appreciate. One of the best records on the album; no doubt.

4. Every Block
This time, 9th Wonder doesn't really drop some heat. The beat here, although sort of a head-nodder, is pretty ordinary and doesn't really move me. Pooh's buddy Phonte drops by to put down a guest verse, but it's Big Pooh who comes up with the better rhymes of the two:
"Still stepping with a passionate cause, but the block reveals all of your flaws hoping you give in, shifting, more swift than the panic, older brain with the pen feeling so diplomatic."

5. Just Friends
Khrysis is back here, and he kills this, laying down a sick bassline (the kicks are ill) over a booming sample. On the cut, Big Pooh talks about being friends with benefits, rapping: "
I just wanna be your friend with privileges, not talkin' on' the phone all night about, where I was or who unless we went out, don't fuss and pout, 'cause you know how I do, always chill with the crew but make time for you." Really like this song.

6. Live Life
Oh man. Khrysis does it again, producing the most soulful beat imaginable. O-Dash and Spectac drop guest verses here, and they both, along with Rapper Big Pooh, rip this. O-Dash and Spectac rap about the ins and outs of life while Pooh talks about his damaged relationship with his brother, sort of like he did on "Away From Me" off of The Listening. One of the best cuts on Sleepers.

7. My Mind
I'm not too in love with this Khrysis beat, as it simply pales in comparison to most of the rest of his work on this project. That said, the lyrical content here by Pooh definitely hits you. At first, it appears that he is talking about a girl whom he let "get away," as he raps:
"Some nights I can't stand to sleep, 'cause I'm thinkin' 'bout them times that I played you cheap, like you gon' be here tomorrow, I don't need to speak, peep on, it be aight, I'll check 'em out next week." Then, at the end of his verse, it seems like he was really talking about a family member (his brother? his father?), as he spits: "When I did get the call I found it hard to cry, kept on bout my daily routine, contemplatin' on 'Should I go? Should I stay? What would it mean?' That we weren't as close as it appear to be, even though he carry the same name as me, wishin' I could go back and change history, but I can't so I'll dream on, for a better us." Deep record no matter what.

8. Scars
This is probably my favorite track off of Sleepers, although the album is so sick that it's hard to truly decide. Anyway, the beat here by 9th is just ill, and Big Pooh, just as he always does, kills it: "You better think twice when you fight 'cause you playing with a life, and some niggas get trife when you playing with their life, and they go for their knife or they bust at you twice, or they take it to your crib and put a couple in your wife, or your kids or whomever, whenever they can get it." Pooh's fellow Justus Leaguers Median and Joe Scudda stop by to lay down verses, and they both do their thing, as well.

9. Between The Lines
Nicely done again, 9th. "Between The Lines" may very well be my second favorite track on the album, but, once again, it's like Sophie's Choice. I love the sample 9th uses (Baby Doll by The Fatback Band), and Pooh's lyrics are both funny and ill at the same time: "
Pooh the teddy bear type, chicks like to grab it
, but I got to be safe, talking prophylactics, naw, you know I'm speaking on this mind game, asking questions, steadily picking at your brain, know your tendencies and why at times your mood change, you sing a little but you sweating me you got range." I effing dig it.

10. The Jungle
"The Jungle" is the only beat on the album that wasn't laid out by Khrysis or 9th Wonder. This one was done by Big Dho, and, consequently, is probably my least favorite beat on Sleepers. Some people say this is the best track off the album, but I'm just not feeling it.

11. Now
Another great and soulful beat by 9th Wonder as Murs makes a guest appearance and kills it, rapping about how getting into the hip-hop game is not a cakewalk:
"Not as simple as it looks, 16 and a hook, there's a lot more to the rap game nigga, look, that's exactly how you up and comin' artists get shook and took, for all your green, broke for self-esteem, your hopes and your dreams, it's not as easy as it seems, to get your CD on this scene, keep rappin' for fun, freestylin' to yourself." I did find this part of Murs' verse interesting, though: "We intercontinental over Khrysis' instrumentals." Um, did someone not give Murs the memo that 9th Wonder produced this cut? And I would think Murs of all people could identify a 9th beat. Jeez.

12. The Fever
Sleepers ends with another banging beat by Khrysis, and Big Pooh obliges with some sick rhymes:
"They say the kid, yo it doesn't exist, I've been known to be prescripted, hand to hand to handle the fix, a contraband landed me on the list, want an issue, phlegm ripped tissue, I popped the cassette, diagnosed the disease that's been given to vets, I'm a hero outta town and come home to threats." Damn.


I can legitimately say that Sleepers is one of the best hip-hop albums of the 2000s. The production on this project is absolutely unbelievable, and Rapper Big Pooh's outstanding flow and sick lyrics never cease over the course of the 12 tracks.

I am a huge Little Brother fan, having heard each and every one of their albums and mixtapes, but despite the fact that The Listening, The Minstrel Show, The Chittlin Circuit 1.5, etc. are all classic material, Sleepers is superior to all of them. That's how good I think this album is. On another note, Phonte's projects with The Foreign Exchange cannot even stand on the shelf next to this record.

Sleepers is one of those albums you can play all the way through under any circumstances. It's a great album to cruise to, chill to, nod your head to, anything. When you have an extraordinary amount of trouble picking out your favorite song from an album, that's how you know for sure that it must have been a phenomenal record. That is my case with Sleepers.

If you don't have this, you need to go and get it now.


1. Scars
2. Between The Lines
3. Live Life
4. Heart Of The City
5. Now


Hell outta here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review requests

I know I can probably count on one hand the amount of people I'm speaking to here, but if anyone has any requests for albums that you want us to review, leave a comment in this post. As long as it's hip-hop, believe me; we'll give it a look.

Album Review: "T.O.S.: Terminate On Sight" - G-Unit (2008)


Well, I've already reviewed an album by each Lloyd Banks and 50 Cent, so why not continue the trend and analyze one by G-Unit as a group (because, honestly, I don't think anyone is going to care if I review Tony Yayo's solo album. That's not to say I don't like Yayo, because I do, but the general consensus is that he, um, isn't very good.)?

The project I will be reviewing is G-Unit's second LP,
T.O.S.: Terminate On Sight (which I will merely refer to from here on out as T.O.S. to help keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay). T.O.S. was released in 2008, five years after the group's platinum debut effort, Beg For Mercy. By this point, Young Buck has officially been ousted from the gang, and although he is present on numerous songs over the course of the album, that is because the tracks were recorded before Buck was booted, and as a matter of fact, he is merely listed as a guest artist.

Because Beg For Mercy was released the same year 50 Cent put out Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), it garnered a crapload of attention and immediately began moving innumerable units. Unfortunately for 50 and his G-Unit brethren Lloyd Banks and Yayo, by '08, the hate for the group was at an all-time high, and to this day, T.O.S. still has not reached gold status.

All of that said, who really gives a damn about album sales? Let's delve into this project to see if it's actually any good instead of just relying on the charts.


1. Straight Outta Southside

Obviously, this was G-Unit's attempt at re-creating N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton," and it wasn't very successful. I mean, the lyrics here are absolutely horrendous, not to mention cheesy as hell, and the Ron Browz beat isn't very palatable.

2. Piano Man
This is the first track Young Buck is on, and he brings absolutely nothing to the table. He's not alone, though, as no one from Tha Bizness (the producer) to 50 to Banks to Yayo displays any kind of semblance of continuity on this song.

3. Close To Me
Even though this track wasn't one of the T.O.S.'s two singles, it still received consistent rotation on the radio. It isn't bad, as a sick bass fuels a decent beat, but, once again, the lyrics are pretty garbage. It's amazing to see how much Banks has grown as a lyricist since this album. This, for example, were his best lines on this song: "
I'm a very special kind, I can't let you shine, these rappers out they mind, don't compare to me combined." That's like tea-time for him now.

4. Rider, Pt. 2
Now this bangs. "Rider, Pt. 2" was actually my favorite song for a while after it first dropped (it was the album's second single). The Rick Rock beat is ill beyond belief, and 50 Cent drops a crazy hook using autotune (I am not a proponent of autotune at all, but 50 sounds sick with it). This is the best song on T.O.S.. Young Buck is here too, by the way.

5. Casualties Of War
Maybe we're finally getting somewhere now, because this record is pretty solid, too. Ky Miller produces an extremely eerie (but good) beat, and 50 drops another good hook. I think it's pretty clear by now that this album isn't about lyrics, so I won't even say that the lyrics on this cut are garbage. Whoops.

6. You So Tough
I actually like everything about this song, including the lyrics. Ky Miller lays down a dark, grimy beat, and Lloyd Banks drops some good rhymes:
"There is no peace, you're the prey or the predator, while you plottin 'on me, I'm 10 steps ahead of ya, black 40 caliber I put it in for red on ya, nigga I'm special, you mad 'cause you regular, man I don't want your bitch, I damn near remember her, refresh my memory, oh yeah I slept with her, no wonder she ain't mention you when I met with her." It was rumored that this was a T.I. diss. 50 and his camp denied it, though.

7. No Days Off
Let me start by saying the Dual Output production on this joint is ill. It is extremely dark and menacing, and, once again, Banks comes through with the best verse, including these lines:
"Look how the game change, bad for the system, niggas on game shows, two dudes kissin'." This is right up there with "Rider, Pt. 2" as far as T.O.S.'s best tracks go. "No Days Off" also marks Young Buck's third appearance on the project.

8. T.O.S.
Ky Miller is on the boards once again, laying down a pretty nice beat for G-Unit here. That said, 50 is the only member of the group on this track who seems at all competent, as Yayo ends every line with "I fucked your girl" and Banks decides to talk about how many times he nuts. That's not to say Fiddy's verse was that great, either. This was the best part:
"Her man ain't a hustler, man he can't do that, he got a 9 to 5, used to pump packs, got knocked once, and he never came back." The beat is what makes this record listenable.

9. I Like The Way She Do It
This was the album's first single, and while it has "radio joint" written all over it, it isn't very good. The beat is kind of annoying, and the content is, as you can tell from the title, pretty played out. Young Buck drops the best verse on here.

10. Kitty Kat
This is just stupid. The beat is pretty nice, but the hook consists of a girl saying, "Oww, I need cash for my kitty kat." Huh. I wonder what that might be implying?

11. Party Ain't Over
The beat on this cut, laid out by Damien Taylor, is ridiculous. "Party Ain't Over" has, easily, one of the most booming basslines I have ever heard. If you play this in your ride, there is a pretty good chance you will blow your windows out. 50's delivery on this is great, as is Banks', particularly on these lines: "Yeah, they love it when I pop 'round, doors up, top down
, seat back, keep that, motherfuckin' glock 'round, nigga this is my town, my block, my crown, my sound, peace to my niggas on lockdown." Young Buck puts down a decent verse, too.

12. Let It Go
50 is actually absent on this track, with Mavado filling in and doing the hook. The reggaeish beat on this, done by Don Cannon, is very good, and Tony Yayo drops what is one of my favorite verses by him: "I'm Marvin Bernard, hip-hop goin hard
, feds ran in the crib, squad all in my yard, I'm the high school dropout, crack game genius, the mack'll turn your back into Gilbert Arenas." Not that the Gilbert Arenas part actually makes much sense, but it sounds good.

13. Get Down
Swizz Beatz produces this beat that, while it sounds good at first, gets irritating fairly quickly. Nothing to see here.

14. I Don't Wanna Talk About It
When I first heard this cut, I liked it. Now, I'm wondering what the heck I was thinking.

15. Ready Or Not
When I saw that Jake One produced this beat, my first thought was, "Seriously?" Don't take that the wrong way, though; the production here is ill; it just doesn't sound like a Jake One beat at all. Oh, and Yayo is actually spitting on this:
"My little shooter's 16 from the projects, glock-16 with the Napoleon complex, I'm in and out the projects, my lifestyle pleasant, you? You live life like a barbaric peasant." 50 isn't on this cut, but it's still a really good track all-around.

16. Money Makes The World Go 'Round
What's with 50 Cent? He's not on this track either, and it certainly could have used him. Not that he could have saved it anyway, though. The production is flatter than roadkill.

17. Chase Da Cat
Like "Party Ain't Over," the bass on here knocks, and the beat, although generic overall, is pretty good. I really liked this when I first heard it, but after a while it kind of wore off. Young Buck makes an appearance here, bringing his final total to five guest spots on T.O.S.. His verse stinks though, so don't get your hopes up (not that you would anyway). The content on "Chase Da Cat" mirrors "I Like The Way She Do It," so if you're going to like this, it will be solely because of the production by Kadis & Sean.


I remember liking this album a lot more when it first came out in 2008. Now, I have a lot of trouble listening to it in its entirety. While the production is pretty solid throughout, the lyrics are just awful, and it's not like these guys are bad lyricists, because they aren't. It just seems like they morph into some disgusting life-form that is barely above Lil Wayne on the lyrical chain when they rap together.

It's hard to believe that this is the same Lloyd Banks whose album I just reviewed yesterday, because he seems like an entirely different rapper on T.O.S.. The growth he has exhibited over the past couple of years really is astounding. On that same token, it's hard to believe this is the same 50 Cent who put out Power Of The Dollar (which I also just reviewed), Get Rich or Die Tryin', and, his most recent project, Before I Self Destruct. Of course, T.O.S. dropped not even a year after 50 released that piece of trash Curtis, so maybe he still hadn't recovered by this point.

Honestly, as much as I like G-Unit, I feel like I'd be sacrificing a piece of my reputation if I recommended this album to you. Some of the cuts are nice and bang in the ride, but as far as it being a good pure hip-hop album? No; just no. Hopefully, their third LP (if and when they do drop one) will be miles better than this, and I expect it will be with a more mature Banks and a 50 Cent who seems to be reverting back to his old ways as a rapper (and that's a good thing).


1. Rider, Pt. 2
2. No Days Off
3. Party Ain't Over
4. Let It Go
5. You So Tough


I'm sure you'll have no trouble weeding them out yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Album Review: "Power Of The Dollar" - 50 Cent (2000)


Now that I reviewed The Hunger For More 2, I figured I'd take you all way back to the day where if you mentioned "G-Unit" in a conversation, people would look at you like you had three heads because, you know, it didn't even exist yet.

A lot of people mistakenly think that Get Rich or Die Tryin' was 50 Cent's debut album. Of course, they would be wrong, as 50's true introduction to the rap game came back in 2000 when he put out Power Of The Dollar, an album that was never officially released due to the fact that Fiddy was dropped from Columbia Records because of the whole shooting incident.

At this point, 50 Cent, real name Curtis Jackson, was just a hungry kid looking for a place in the hip-hop world. Despite the fact that he was a neophyte in the field, though, there are many stories and controversies tied to Power Of The Dollar that fit 50's now well-known persona like a glove.

It is speculated that the song "Ghetto Qu'ran" is the reason why there was an attempted murder on Curtis, as it is said that he was "snitching" on the track. Also, the album's first single, "How To Rob," disses every rapper (playfully, though) under the sun, as 50 raps about how he could rob every artist in the game. Some of the artists he mentioned (Big Punisher, Jay-Z, and Kurupt to name a few) took this as a real diss and reciprocated in kind, releasing 50 Cent disses of their own.

Since then, 50 has become rap's most polarizing figure. His cutthroat personality has created an endless amount of haters who look to jump on his case at the slightest provocation. Of course, there are those (like me) who enjoy 50's antics and think that, due to the overwhelming amount of flak he catches for "ruining" hip-hop, he is actually somewhat underrated (yes, I said it) in the rap game.

That said, let's examine Power Of The Dollar.


1. The Hit

Packing a feel-good beat produced by Randy Allen, "The Hit" represents a very solid opening to the album, and 50 immediately lets everyone know that he means business:
"You cats got to be sick, to think 50 can't spit, better check my batting average, I always make hits." No one can argue with the latter part of that line; that's for sure.

2. The Good Die Young
This is my favorite 50 Cent song of all-time and one of my favorite songs, period. Backed by a very soulful and melancholy beat done by Al West, 50 talks about how short life can be and how everything can be taken away from you in a second.
"I know we all gotta go, but I'd hate to go fast, then again I don't think it'd be fun to stick around and go last," spits a pensive 50. Mr. Jackson proves on this cut that he can be introspective and rap about something that has meaning. The hook on this is especially good.

3. Corner Bodega
"Corner Bodega" is short, spanning one minute and thirty-eight seconds, but many people consider this to be one of Power Of The Dollar's best tracks. The beat, produced by L.E.S., is pretty good, but the content (which is all about drug dealing) just doesn't interest me very much.

4. Your Life's On The Line
Most people know this track from Get Rich or Die Tryin', but it made its debut on Power Of The Dollar. This is actually the song that got Eminem to sign 50, as he heard this and was incredibly impressed. The Terence Dudley beat knocks, but that and 50's actual verses are made negligible by the hook, which is one of my favorite hooks of all time: "Scream murdaaa, I don't believe you, murdaaa, fuck around and leave you, murdaaa, I don't believe you, murda murda, your life's on the line." Sick.

5. That Ain't Gangsta
This is the first of many Trackmasters productions on the album, and while it is merely mediocre, 50 Cent's hook once again steals the show on this cut. It's too long for me to write here, but it consists of short phrases with 50 afterward saying "that ain't gangsta." He spits some solid lines, too, including: "I'll have 'em on some E.T. shit tryin' to phone home
, in here a gemstar is like a nine milly chrome, it's similar, in fact they'll both split ya dome, scars are souvenirs, niggas always take 'em home."

6. As The World Turns
This record contains a pretty solid, laid-back beat by Red Spyda and a guest verse from Bun B. I love 50's delivery throughout this song, and that's what makes the track. There isn't anything special about "As The World Turns" lyrically, but, once again, I really dig 50's flow on it.

7. Ghetto Qu'ran
Which brings us to the infamous "snitch" song which, if you want to look at it technically, actually jumpstarted 50 Cent's career. 50 raps about the struggles of hustlers in the hood over a smooth, soulful Trackmasters beat (the production on this really is outstanding), but the first four lines of his first verse are probably the reason why he was shot: "Yo, when you hear talk of the southside, you hear talk of the team
, see niggas feared Prince and respected Preme, for all you slow mothafuckas I'm a break it down iller, see Preme was the business man and Prince was the killer." 50's storytelling and the great beat make this one of the best cuts on Power Of The Dollar.

8. Da Repercussions
"Da Repercussions" contains yet another example of a sick hook by 50 Cent: "
You niggas say somethin' slick, you'll get slapped for that, you niggas schemin' on some jewels, you'll get clapped for that, if y'all niggas want war, I got the mack for that, run up with some work, and get your head cracked for that." The production, done by Gowdy, is also great here. One of my favorite tracks off the project.

9. Money By Any Means
Trackmasters are on the beat again, laying down a solid production with some banging drums. Noreaga, who was huge in the game at this point in time, stops by and drops a guest verse. This cut is pretty typical, though, as the two rappers spit threatening lyrics about guns, drug dealing, etc.

10. Material Girl
Up until this point, each and every one of the songs on Power Of The Dollar have been hardcore, so "Material Girl" denotes a pretty significant change in direction. For now, at least. The record, which features R&B singer Dave Hollister, is about how girls are suddenly flooding to 50 because he is famous, and how said girls can get lost. I really love the upbeat Trackmasters production here. Solid song.

11. Thug Love
And the move away from the streets continues on "Thug Love," as 50 raps about how he keeps his girl iced and supplied with the goods. Destiny's Child is featured on the cut and add a very nice touch. The beat here, done by Rashad Smith, is ill, consisting of a continuous guitar string and some banging drums. There was supposed to be a music video for this track, but Fiddy was shot two days before the scheduled filming. This was Power Of The Dollar's second single, by the way.

12. Slow Doe
"Slow Doe," like "Corner Bodega," is one of the album's more popular songs on the street, and with good reason; the crawling, almost Middle-Eastern-flavored beat is addictive, and 50 spits some good "tough-guy" lines:
"Yo nowadays niggas talk like they wanna get shot, like I won't grab the glock and run up in your spot, six double O drop I'll put two in your knot, and stick around and get every motherfucking thing you've got." I really like this record, which was produced guessed it; Trackmasters.

13. Gun Runner
Why couldn't this track have been longer? It's only one minute and fifty-eight seconds long, but it's crazy. The beat (do I even need to say who produced it?) on this is ridiculously good
, and 50, predictably, talks about blasting his foes.

14. You Ain't No Gangsta
Once again, it's the hook that makes this track so sick, but that doesn't mean Curtis doesn't drop some nice rhymes:
"Get it through yo head, 50 Cent don't care, I cock triggers light the block up, iller than times square." Sha Self lays down a nice street beat here, too.

15. Power Of The Dollar
The album's title track is sick, from the beat by Trackmasters to the lyrics all the way down to 50's quick flow. This is arguably 50's best performance on the project, dropping three very solid verses and these ill punchlines:
"I'm out of order, I turn your only daughter, into a transporter, before I die, I'm gonna see more blow than Rich Porter," and, "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm a 9 with two M's, if your man want to get involved, I'll bring it to him." Great record.

16. I'm a Hustler

DJ Scratch drops this sick beat for 50 Cent, who spits some realness:
"Hate a liar more than I hate a thief, a thief is only after my salary a liar is after my reality." Later, he raps: "If it's on motherfucker, believe I'm gonna ride, I'm the type to swallow my blood before I swallow my pride." One of his more impressive lyrical performances on Power Of The Dollar, without a doubt.

17. How To Rob
The first single happens to be the last track on the album, and this is another one of the songs that caused so many problems for 50 Cent early on in his career. As I stated earlier, he spends this four-minute, twenty-four second cut jokingly dissing countless artists. For example: "
Catch Rae, Ghost, and RZA for them funny ass rings, tell Sticky gimme the cash before I empty three," and, probably 50's best lines of the song, "I'll rob Pun without a gun, snatch his piece then run, this nigga weigh 400 pounds, how he gon' catch me son?" Some of the rappers 50 "dissed" on here took it to heart (like Wu-Tang and Big Punisher) and returned fire, but I think it's pretty clear that "How To Rob" was merely a joke on 50's part.


To this day, I still go back and forth in determining which album of Power Of The Dollar or Get Rich or Die Tryin' is 50 Cent's best work. Some say his real debut was the better of the two, while others cite 50's breakthrough hit "In Da Club" as being the primary reason why Get Rich or Die Tryin' is the stronger of the two projects.

Seriously though, who really cares? Both of Curtis' first two albums were very impressive in my opinion, as 50 displays the ability to paint realistic pictures of what street life is like and how it feels to make it out of the gutter. Of course, there are critics out there who argue that Fiddy has no variety in his lyrics, and while this may be true, why go away from something that got you success in the first place? It's like that old adage says: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The production on Power Of The Dollar is steadily good. There is not one beat on this album that I dislike. Now, at the same time, the production isn't necessarily spectacular, but it's consistent, and sometimes that makes all the difference. It's like that athlete that does everything well but nothing great. Think of the production on this album as Tayshaun Prince. Now, wouldn't you like to have Prince on your team?

Is Power Of The Dollar one of the best albums in hip-hop history? Of course not, but does that mean it can't be a good album? Once again, of course not. I think the criteria that some people come up with to determine whether or not an album is sufficient is pretty ridiculous. It's gotta have this, it's gotta have this, it's gotta have that; isn't there a such thing as an album just being solid without all of the "requirements?"

I would go and throw this on your music player now, because it's a damn good effort by 50 Cent.


1. The Good Die Young
2. Gun Runner
3. Thug Love
4. Ghetto Qu'ran
5. Da Repercussions