DJ Envy & Red Cafe - The Co-Op

Posted October 11, 2007

Listeners beware of the hip-hop skit, that most horrendous of beasts. For reasons beyond my...

The Co-Op Album Review

Listeners beware of the hip-hop skit, that most horrendous of beasts. For reasons beyond my comprehension, rappers seem compelled to fill their albums with pointless material. When I go to heaven (not likely), or hell (that’s more like it), the first question I’m asking whoever is in charge is why? Why God/Satan, why do these rappers record skits?

Mixtape guru DJ Envy has thrown his considerable production weight behind underground mainstay Red Café for their appropriately titled new release, The Co-Op. The album’s so street it should come with traffic lights, but no skits have ever confused me more than the ones off this album. Let me explain: the skits all involve “MC Death Murder Homicide,” a wack rapper only capable of rhyming about drugs, guns and booty. Pretty easy to figure out the message there…until you listen to Red Café’s rhymes about drugs, guns and booty. Is it a subtle message to listeners that he’s being forced to rhyme about violence to sell records? Or is he saying every other rapper who talks big is fake, except (conveniently) for Red Café and his crew? Sweet jesus I can’t take it anymore, somebody stop these skits before I take a bath with my toaster.

Is it just a coincidence that the hardest songs on the album come directly after skits? Do I think to much about hip-hop albums? Probably. Just seconds after the first skit comes to a close What It Be Like’s first rumbling notes bounce across the speakers. Red Café has a reputation for hitting every line like he’s throwing a mean uppercut, a reputation he deserves on the track, even if the lyrics don’t get much deeper than “I came strapped/take that/45s and haze/blaze that.” Move Like A G drops after the second skit with a synth-infused rage that proves why Envy is G-Unit’s producer of choice. Café spits a tight verse about how strapped he is (what else?) but he gets just slightly upstaged by a furious Styles P feature, followed by an absolutely crushing Uncle Murda contribution. Blow out those big speakers in the whip with this one. Immediately following the third skit comes Buck Buck, a track so hard it makes Move Like A G sound like Lip Gloss. Plus Sheek Louch throws in a guest feature that’s the definition of grimy. On these tracks there’s no doubt Red Café is a legitimately talented rapper, unfortunately his lyrical content is so monotonous he could ghostwrite for the “MC Death Murder Homicide” character he so savagely mocks during the skits. Make sense of that, I dare you.

No more obsessive mentions of skits, I promise. Moving on…Café’s rhyme style has been compared to Fabolous and we find out if it’s true on the lead single Dolla Bill, a hollow and echoing track punctured by distinctive Rockwilder sirens. Before listening to this track I didn’t think Fab and Café sounded alike, beyond the fact they both rap syrup slow, but if you’re not listening closely you could miss when the two switch verses. I was wrong, they do sound alike. In the grand tradition of the reggae-gangster track comes Children of the Ghetto, a fully blunted joint featuring the island vocals of Mr. Easy. This is Red Café’s opportunity to break out of the guns and coke formula; he declines the offer. His sole message for the kids is a meager “25 to life ain’t fly,” which is virtually meaningless at the end of a verse that starts with “first we strap up.” I've heard Café’s interviews, he’s one smart dude who has to have more creativity in him than this. So what’s holding him back?

If you’re in the music industry then you know the first commandment of any release; thou shalt have a radio friendly single. The Co-Op gives it two tries: first with Things You Do featuring the lovely ladies of Nina Sky, a track that should successfully find a home on “traffic jam” radio shows everywhere. Does this remind anyone else of an old-school Ja Rule and Ashanti track? Second up is Black Buddafly laying down some silky vocals on the slowly clapping cut Mr. Lover. Honestly, I can’t think of anything to say except it's perfectly decent hip-pop. Actually, the song is indicative of the whole album; well-crafted but ultimately forgettable. The Co-Op should do some decent sales numbers but I can’t believe anyone will still be playing it in six months. Lord knows that’s no sin, now about those skits…

DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins

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Posted October 11, 2007
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