Webbie - Savage Life 2

Posted March 3, 2008
Tags: Webbie,

America is at war with the South. Or at least it looks like we’re headed that way. Hip-hop...

Savage Life 2 Album Review

America is at war with the South. Or at least it looks like we’re headed that way. Hip-hop has always repped its own block, but there seems to be a rising tide of resentment surrounding the emergence of the Dirty South as the undisputed ruler of The United States of Hip Hop. Heads from coast to coast have become so bitter they’ve begun to blindly hate on any Southern rapper as shallow, basic and lyrically empty. Southerners have countered by pledging their undying support to every artist rising out of the streets of Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, even if they’re terrible (check out the comments to the Shawty Lo review for an example). Maybe I’m just paranoid because I grew up at the height of the ridiculously overblown “East Coast/West Coast rap war,” but am I the only one who senses a storm approaching over the Southern horizon?

As my spiritual advisor Queen Latifah would say, we’ve got to have u-n-i-t-y, and it’s in that spirit that I approach today’s review of Savage Life 2. The latest album from growing star Webbie is sure to be another battleground between those who unapologetically rattle their neighbor’s window’s with punishing bass lines, and those who flip on their headphones and memorize another Nas verse. As always, the truth is somewhere in between. Webbie (or Webster Gradney, as the government likes to call him) is certainly far too talented to be dismissed as another Southern one hit wonder, but he’s also got a way to go before he joins the South’s elite rap circle.

Case in point; Independent. If Independent’s overwhelming radio success proves anything, it’s that Webbie’s high energy style can succeed on a national level, and with him rapping about women doing something besides dropping it low – like say, having a job. Plus his partner in rhyme Lil’ Boosie drops in for some typically wild lyrics with a positive twist; how that grimy voice comes out of that skinny body is beyond me. But that’s a topic for another day. The important thing is that you have to give it up to Webbie for getting a female empowerment anthem that much airplay. In fact Webbie’s got much more up his lyrical sleeve than Southern fried haters give him credit for. Savage Life 2 has a few moments that break out of the stereotypical “money, cars, hoes” routine, most notably his ode to his son Just Like Me. The track’s reminiscent of Will Smith’s Just The Two Of Us, except exactly the opposite: “Sometimes I get scared/you gonna end up dead/little n***a f**k that/you gonna me just like me.” Just warms the heart, doesn’t it? Sorry, reality hurts, and Webbie isn’t afraid to make you feel his pain.

Now before you moms out there rush out to buy Savage Life 2 for your kid's birthday party , there’s a reason Webbie made the Hustle and Flow soundtrack. I’m Ready reminds the world exactly why Mannie Fresh was Cash Money’s producer of choice for a decade with a beat that somehow combines marching elephants bass hits and a music box melody. For his part Webbie does exactly what he’s supposed to do – drop a grinding verse that does work without getting overly complicated. It’s the same story on I’m Hot, an absolute crusher of a track that seamlessly combines a rock guitar line with stuttering percussion. With production like that it’s a shame the chorus is so wack, but Webbie makes up for it with a swaggering flow that makes Hurricane Chris sound like Tropical Storm Chris in comparison.

Which is why A Miracle is so disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly fine song, and that’s the problem. A Miracle had the potential to be a new Southern anthem, but even Birdman and Ricky Ross guest verses can’t rescue it from average status. Oddly enough the other tracks with major guest verses, most notably the gun click heavy Doe Doe featuring Bun B, don’t quite live up to expectations either. It’s as if Webbie does his best work when’s he’s got the track all to himself – he's like Weezy's polar opposite. In the end all that makes Savage Life 2 far better than New York heads want to admit, but nowhere near a classic. Sorry, I know it’s not as exciting as starting beef, but it’s the truth. It looks like the war will have to wait another day. Can’t we all just get along?

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted March 3, 2008
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