El Prez - Animal Style!

Posted February 23, 2010
Tags: El Prez,

There’s no way to truly understand El Prez’ new mixalbum Animal Style! without...

Animal Style! Album Review

There’s no way to truly understand El Prez’ new mixalbum Animal Style! without understanding Southern California, and in particular, In-N-Out. So for all my unfortunate souls with snow-packed sidewalks awaiting you outside, let’s quickly review. At first glance In-N-Out is a chain of burger places with a retro-50s vibe and a minimal menu: fries, shakes, cheeseburger and a double cheeseburger. That’s it. Always. Menu never changes. But locals, well, the locals know about the secret menu. Never formally printed in the restaurant, the secret menu exists only in code. Go up to the cashier and order a Flying Dutchman and you’ll get back a burger with no bun. A 2x4 gets you a double cheeseburger with four slices of cheese, and Animal Style is a burger with grilled onions, pickles and, of course, the secret sauce. How do you know what’s on the secret menu? Like Louis Armstrong said about jazz, if you have to ask, you’ll never know. Or you can just Google that sh*t. Either way.

I didn’t spend all that time talking about In-N-Out in hopes they’d send along a free burger, entirely. No, I delved into the world of the secret menu because Animal Style! is one of the most aptly-titled mixalbums I’ve heard in a minute. A L.A. native who grew up in the city of angels during the turbulent ‘80s, El Prez is SoCal to the bone, and his weed, women and waves brand of hip-hop is too. So just like you don’t need to know the secret menu to get something delicious from In-N-Out, if you really want to experience everything Animal Style! has to offer, it helps to have some insider info.

There’s no better place to start then the beginning, and sure enough Animal Style’s opening track California Games serves as a blueprint to the mixalbum as a whole. California Games’ centerpiece is some mellowed-out production courtesy of Ro Blvd that coasts over the speakers like a Cadillac down the Pacific Coast Highway, a template Prez is only too happy to lounge in with some rhymes about – what else? – life on the leftest coast: “Tell the two chicks in the back to leave their heels inside, all they need is a towel to dry off their thighs, when the tide rise…” But while Prez’ rhyme style is always far from aggressive, I don’t want to paint a picture of a lazy rapper. Instead, like the west coast godfather Snoop, he can flow with the best of them, most notably on the hypnotic Phantoms of the Opera and the chest-pounding King Kong, a booming cut that’s as chest-pounding as Prez gets. Like the city of Los Angeles, El Prez and Animal Style! doesn’t shove you through the door, it invites you inside with the promise of a better life. Whether you decide to enter is entirely up to you.

Talking about Animal Style! without talking about marijuana would be like talking about L.A. without talking about breasts, so we may as well get into it with Contact. An appropriately spacey cut that finds Prez somehow managing to rhyme about a Ford Taurus and still sound dope, Contact also brings on fast-riser Freddie Gibbs, whose Big Boi-meets-Raekwon flow is quickly becoming a personal favorite. Like the generous toker he is, Contact is far from the only time Prez elects to puff-puff-pass. Inglewood brings along his running mate Shawn Chrystopher for a tour through their native Inglewood, and Victory Lapse is a coast-to-coast soul jam that reaches all the way to Brooklynati to bring Donwill and Von Pea of Tanya Morgan for the mixalbum’s most triumphantly celebratory cut. On Animal Style!’s collabo tracks Prez has a tendency to be somewhat overshadowed by his guest artists, but when the ride’s this smooth, does it really matter who’s driving?

Part of the joy of listening to music, and especially hip-hop, is in recognizing the familiar, and in being transported to places you’ll never go. While Animal Style isn’t a classic, it impressively manages to do both those things, reflecting the lives of SoCal residents while taking visitors on a tour that will have them feeling sorry to leave. So the next time you hear someone mention Animal Style!, know that the two of you are a part of a select but growing few who know sometimes the best things in life aren’t always on the menu.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted February 23, 2010
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