Like China under Chairman Mao or Russia under Stalin, hip-hop has its dictators too. Everyone...
DJBooth Album Review
What the dictators don’t understand is that hip-hop is a lot like the movies. For example, if you love serious dramas then you probably hate Terminator, but that doesn’t make Terminator a bad movie, just a bad serious drama. So why should hip-hop be any different? Backpackers calling hustle rap wack, and hustlers calling conscious rap soft, is like a serious drama fan calling Arnold Schwarzenegger a bad actor. He is - unless you like action movies, in which case he’s a legend.
If there’s one man hip-hop dictators hate, someone they’ve even called proof of hip-hop’s “death,” it’s Young Jeezy. It’s ridiculous to blame a Snowman for what plagues the music industry; it’d be more accurate to call Jeezy the Schwarzenegger of the rap game. If you’re looking for nuance and complexity then look somewhere else, but if you like watching s**t explode, then Jeezy’s your man. Nowhere is this more evident than on his latest effort The Recession, an album that won’t win any awards, but will win respect from anyone who loves cranking the volume until their speakers spontaneously combust.
The U.S. economy may be in a recession, but The Recession might hold one of the richest collections of southern trap production ever assembled. Just take the title track The Recession (Intro), a joint that leads off the album with a symphonicly monstrous beat courtesy of DJ Toomp. How epic is this beat? If I was in the Marines and we were flying in a helicopter on our way to assault an enemy compound, I’d want Intro playing in the background. Impressively, Intro is a good indication of the production quality of the album as a whole. From the surprisingly 70’s funk-styled Circulate to the rider/opera Crazy World, The Recession features an impressive production roster, and with Jeezy’s voice typically sounding like it went through a paper shredder all he has to do is spit a couple decent verses and the track will bang. Sure, the constant synth blasts and snare rolls get repetitive, but when you’re watching an action movie can there ever be too many exploding cars?
I can hear the dictators now: “Nathan, I could give a s**t about dope beats, I love lyricism and that’s why I can’t stand Jeezy’s triple-beam rhyme style.” Fair enough. The chances of the Snowman spitting a metaphor are about as good as the chances of Trina becoming celibate, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play his lyrical role to perfection. Let’s take Put On. The most complex Jeezy’s gets on Put On is dropping a coke-dealers’ version of a riddle, “what’s whiter than a napkin, harder than a dinner plate?” and rhyming “broccoli” with “glock with me,” but his boldly swaggering verses are a perfect contrast to Kanye’s introspective verse, a balance that ultimately makes the song a hit. (Note to Jeezy - never do that singing thing in the beginning of the track ever again.) Even better, Jeezy directly addresses all the dictators out there on Word Play, saying “I’m way too intelligent to play up my intelligence.” He’s smart enough to know he’s not Nas, and he’s not going to pretend to be. Listen, when I need some mental exercise I turn on Lupe, but while I’m at the gym I’ve got Jeezy on my iPod. I’d like to believe hip-hop’s got room for both.
That doesn’t mean Jeezy doesn’t occasionally make straight-up bad music. On the surface Vacation is a refreshingly laid-back joint, until you realize that Jeezy’s taking a vacation from paper stacking to, well, stack paper. The production’s enjoyable, but it’d be nice to hear Jeezy take a vacation from the cash talk. Even more disappointing is My President, a track where Jeezy discredits his own political ambitions by spitting “My president is black, my Lambo is blue,” then proceeds to talk about his rims. What happened to your president Jeezy? My President’s not going to be Obama’s theme song, Nas' guest verse aside it's barely about Obama, and it's not going on my playlist, but luckily hip-hop’s not a dictatorship. You’re free to bump whatever you want, and if you’re on a mission to bang some serious trap music than you’ve found a friend in The Recession.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 09/1/08
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"Grew Up a Screw Up" (2006)
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