Tag Archives: 2002

Nelly – Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention

Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention
November 25, 2003
Derrty EntertainmentUMG
Nelly - Da Derrty Versions the Reinvention
1. Intro // 2. Country Grammar [Jay E Remix] (feat. E-40) // 3. Iz U // 4. E.I. [David Banner remix] // 5. Ride With Me [Jay E Remix] (feat. City Spud) // 6. Batter Up [Jay E Remix] (feat. Murphy Lee, Chocolate Tai, King Jacob, Prentiss Church & Jung Tru) // 7. If // 8. Hot In Herre [Basement Beats Remix] // 9. Dilemma [Jermaine Dupri Remix] (feat. Ali & Kelly Rowland) // 10. King’s Highway // 11. Groovin’ Tonight (St. Lunatics feat. Brian McKnight) // 12. Air Force Ones [David Banner Remix] (feat. David Banner & 8ball) // 13. Work It [Scott Storch Remix] (feat. Justin Timberlake) // 14. #1 [Remix] (feat. Postaboy & Clipse) // 15. Pimp Juice [Jay E Remix] (feat. Ron Isley) // 16. Tip Drill [Remix] (E.I.) (St. Lunatics)

Back when people still bought cds remix-albums were an easy way for record labels of juicing any particular artist’s fanbase for some cash whenever that artist didn’t have a proper album to promote. Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention is such an album, bridging the gap between Nelly’s 2002 blockbuster Nellyville and his 2004 double whammy Sweat and Suit. On this album you will find amended versions of hit songs from Nellyville and his debut Country Grammar of varying quality, all tied together by Nelly commenting on his ‘creative process’ in a sort of fake interview type of setting brought to us in skits. Did you know E-40 invented slang? Yeah, me neither…

On to the content: Everything labeled a ‘Jay E Remix’, which is is the absolute majority of the songs, can be automatically dismissed as a remix. Not because the beats suck, Jay E is a terrific producer and arguably half of the reason of Nelly’s success, but rather because the guy produced most of the original incarnations of these songs which were mostly not broke and therefore not in need of fixing.
Apparently he agreed with that assessment because the changes to his instrumentals are minimal to nonexistent. All that’s really added are newly recorded guest appearances which vary from entertaining enough such as the Ron Isley-featuring version of Pimp Juice and the Clipse on #1, to meh such as the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it E-40 verse on Country Grammar, to godawful such as the new version of Batter Up which replaces B-team weedcarriers with Z-team weedcarriers. But the fact that Jay doesn’t go rampant creatively with altering his own shit might actually be for the better because the one time Jay E does actually change something substantial about a song the result is a version of Ride With Me that poorly attempts to fit the original hook into the melody of John Mayer’s No Such Thing for no other reason than that Nelly likes John and wanted to pay ‘tribute’ to him, which is very questionable reasoning at best. Nelly could‘ve called the guy up for a collabo and Mayer would probably have said yes, and that might’ve made for an entertaining collabo if Nelly’s later collabo with Tim McGraw Over and Over is any indication. In stead we’re left with this stupid shit that also does a terrible job at incorporating City Spud’s not-that-great-to-begin-with verse off the original version.
The remix of Hot In Herre which is credited to ‘Basemenent Beats’, a production team consisting of Jay E, Koko and Wally Beaming (and City Spud who is m.i.a. here because of a ten year prison stint) is pretty fucking awesome with what sounds like a recreation of the Neptunes’ bleepy, bloopy original beat with live instrumentation. I guess he did have something to ad here because he didn’t have a hand in creating the original instrumental.

Mississippi rapper and producer David Banner remixes E.I. into something much more scandalously entertaining than the original, although there wasn’t much need to tack on a second version of this remix on the end of the album with his boys from the St. Lunatics featuring but substituting verses with catchphrases (This version does however work really well as a floor-filler at parties, so perhaps it is the Nelly-solo version that is the redundant track out of the two.) His rock version of Air Force Ones however a fairly lame deal, which is a shame because new guest verses by himself and southern legend 8ball are a lot better than what the ‘Tics had come up with for the original.

Jermaine Dupri’s new version of Dilemma exposes the song for having been very reliant for its effect on its sappy original production as this stripped down version sounds dry and superficial. Scott Storch transforms Work It into an altogether more slinky affair that probably would’ve sounded better if Nelly hadn’t decided to re-record his vocals after popping a shitload of ritalin. It is what it is and it is mystifying.

That leaves a three original songs. Iz U is a pretty cool trunk-rattler that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Nellyville, that goes for Kings Highway and the Neptunes-produced If as well. Perhaps he was cleaning out the vaults or something. Anyway these songs are probably the only real reason for owners of Country Grammar and Nellyville to pick up The Reinvention.
In 2003 that might’ve cut it as an incentive for purchasing this album. In 2014 however you can just buy the individual songs off iTunes or Amazon and you’ll have all the added value of this album to Nelly’s catalogue for a lot less money than you would spend on the entire disc. That’s not to say Da Derrty Versions sounds bad. It’s a fairly decent Nelly-playlist, and with the exception of Air Force Ones and Ride With Me these remixes don’t actually sound any worse than they do in their original versions. Props for culling the only good song Groovin’ Tonight off that godawful St. Lunatics album, even if it was only to get incarcerated Lunatic City Spud some commisary (That would also explain why Spud is on that strange and shitty Ride With Me-John Mayer mashup). But if you’re a fan of Nelly’s you could probably make a much better Nelly-playlist yourself with the technology being available and manageable to everyone and their grandmother, making The Reinvention a dinosaur from a bygone era.

Best tracks
Iz U
Hot In Herre [Basement Beats Remix]
King’s Highway
Groovin’ Tonight
Pimp Juice [Jay E Remix]

Buy the above tracks off iTunes or Amazon, or pick this out of the used CD bin you find it for under six dollars.

Nelly – Nellyville

June 25, 2002
Derrty EntertainmentUMG
Nelly - Nellyville
1. Nellyville // 2. Gettin’ It Started [Skit] (performed by Cedric the Entertainer & La La) // 3. Hot In Herre // 4. Dem Boyz (feat. St. Lunatics) // 5. Oh Nelly (feat. Murphy Lee) // 6. Pimp Juice // 7. Air Force Ones (feat. St. Lunatics) // 8. In the Store [Skit] (performed by Cedric the Entertainer & La La) // 9. On the Grind (feat. King Jacob) // 10. Dilemma (feat. Kelly Rowland) // 11. Splurge // 12. Work It (feat. Justin Timberlake) // 13. Roc the Mic [Remix] (State Property feat. Murphy Lee & Nelly) // 14. The Gank // 15. 5000 [Skit] // 16. #1 // 17. CG 2 (feat. St. Lunatics) // 18. Say Now // 19. Fuck It Then [Skit] (performed by Cedric the Entertainer & La La)
bonus track
20. Girlfriend [Neptunes Remix] (*NSYNC feat. Nelly)

Nelly -the man, the myth, the band-aid abuser- really was the early 2000s Lil Wayne, although longtime Weezy-fans know that Lil Wayne himself was also a thing in that day and age. But what I mean to say by that is that Nelly was as succesful in 2002 as Lil Tunechi was in say 2010. There was nary a radio station one could turn on without hearing the man’s heavily accented words and sing-songy voice. Most of these hits are concentrated on Nellyville.

Nellyville showcases everything that was right and everything that was wrong with hip-hop in the early naughties. The Neptunes sound, continuous celebration of excess, an expanding assortiment of regional flavours of hip-hop hitting the mainstream, having each and every one of your friends come over to the studio to drop a verse for your album, R&B/pop-rap collaborations, singing your own hooks when no R&B singer was around without the aid of vocal effects, silly skits and really long tracklists and running times, keeping it gangsta with nary a hipster in sight. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

This album sold a tonne of copies too. Some seven million in the U.S.A. alone on the strength of it’s smash hit singles like Hot In HerreDillema and Work It. I’m sure even the Lunatics ate better off their three apearances than they did off the Free City and the Heavy Starch albums combined. The pre-iTunes era had some perks for weed carriers. These days they would’ve been forced to find a day job to support their “rap career” because people would just buy all the songs they like off iTunes and back then you had to cop the whole cd. In 2002 people did cop the cd because of Cornell Haynes, jr.’s punchy flows and catchy hooks that were delivered in a oddly intoxicating blend of shouting and velvetty crooning about being a gangsta and a hustler and a player and what not but mostly about having too much fun, over Jason “JE” Epperson’s dirty but poppy beats, with a couple of instruments by others including Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo thrown in for variety’s sake.

The album kicks off with the title track which describes a city that is Nelly’s utopia in which the weather is democratically decided upon, in which he is the mayor (or muhr as he pronounces it) and everything is gumdrops and ice cream. Only Nelly could make a song like this without sounding completely flaky. I’m sure everyone has heard Hot In Herre and Dilemma, two of the archetypical commercial rap songs of the era. The former is probably the most memorable Neptunes-produced club number ever with a feverish beat and Nelly’s blissfully ignorant raps and jokes that are so bad they’re good (“Stop pacin’, time wastin’, I got a friend with a pole in the basement” “What?” “I’m just Kidding like Jason!” “Oh.” “Unless you gon’ do it.”). The latter is something out of the Ja Rule playbook with our host and Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland affectionately singing and sing-rapping come-ons at one another over a cheese fondue of an instrumental that blends philly soul with music box twinkling. You’d have to be a hardball cynic to hate these wide eyed optimistic and incredibly catchy jams.
Justin Timberlake, then of *NSYNC, gets to sing the hook of Work It which was good for him since appearing on this strip club anthem made him insteresting to slightly orlder teenagers than those who bought Celebrity, which was very necessary for the solo-album he was releasing later in 2002 to become succesful. The song still sounds really good today with it’s beat that’s simultaneously groovy and crunchy but it does give away how much Nelly relies on his superior flow and charisma to get his message across and not so much his lyrics which can be a bit off. (“She’s got me hypnotised, just like that Biggie guy.” and still P. Daddy invited him over to work on the second postumous Notorious B.I.G. album!?)
Air Force Ones is quite pleasant for a shoe commercial mostly pieced together by b-teamers due to it’s throbbing bounce-beat that harks back to Batter Up and Pimp Juice is the best shitty falsetto performed by a rapper ever, Jeffrey Atkins be damned.
#1 has our host proclaiming his dominance over the rap game and answering a KRS-One diss with gusto over a gloriously tangy instrumental.
Another highlight is Roc the Mic [Remix], an amended version of State Property’s debut single which has Sigel and Freeway copy the flow each other used on their respective verses the original version and Nelly and Murphy Lee managing to fit in pretty good with this significantly more gangsta, less frivolous duo. The edition of Nellyville I have finishes with the Neptunes remix to the *NSYNC-song girlfriend on which Nelly appeared, on here gets as clean as Justin gets dirty on Work It, so that’s a fair trade I guess. If you’re going to pick up Nellyville pick up this edition because it’s like an added bonus to what is essentially a nostalgia value pack. Besides the only other way of picking up this song is buying NSYNC’s Celebrity or stealing it off the internet off course.

The rest of the songs don’t really suck but don’t exactly warrant an honourable mention either. The biggest flaw about the album is that it’s twenty tracks (eighty miniutes) long, which leads me to believe that the man All Eyez on Me‘d this album, which means he recorded everything he could come up with in one go and without hearing it back for quality control purposes released everything he could fit onto a cd. If this were ten tracks long it woud be much better and much conciser. Still as it is Nellyville is more hit than miss and -dare I say it- a bit of a pop-rap classic that works as a time machine to the early Bush-era (your appreciation of this album may depend on your experience of those years.) and for that I salute it and Nelly himself.

Best tracks
Hot In Herre
Pimp Juice
Air Force Ones
Work It
Roc the Mic [Remix]
Girlfriend [Remix]

Pick this one up. The good song are hella fun and Nellyville can’t be too expensive to come by.

Ali – Heavy Starch

Heavy Starch
April 30, 2002
Derrty EntertainmentUMG
Ali - Heavy Starch
1. Intro // 2. I Got This // 3. Crucial (feat. Murphy Lee) // 4. Ore-Ore-O // 5. No (feat. St. Lunatics) // 6. Boughetto (feat. Murphy Lee) // 7. 360 // 8. Wiggle Wiggle (feat. St. Lunatics) // 9. Drop Top (feat. Kandi) // 10. Collection Plate (feat. St. Lunatics) // 11. Passin’ Me By (feat. Toya) // 12. Bitch // 13. Beast (feat. Ray Ray) // 14. Cool as Hell
15a. St. Louis Alumni (feat. STL Alumni) / 15b. Serious / 15c. Walk Away (feat. Ms. Toi & Nelly)

The first to come out of the St. Lunatics camp with a solo-album after undisputed alfa male Nelly was Ali. I can’t say I recall much of his contributions to Free City, but then I can’t remember many of Nelly’s verses either. Suffice to say the St. Lunatics’ debut album wasn’t a very memorable affair.

Heavy Starch Mostly gets right what Free City did wrong. It has some pretty pleasant instrumentals. I Got This has a bollywood-infused beat, CrucialNo360Wiggle Wiggle, Drop DropPassin’ Me By, Bitch have some of the same plodding, twinkling bounce-beats Nelly rode on to success with is debut Country Grammar. Boughetto brings an energetic club beat to the table and Collection Plate has some slinky southern funk backing up Ali and his Lunatic friends. Beast has some piano-keys going up and down the tone ladder. Everything is consistent enough to justify calling Heavy Starch an album but varied enough to keep you from falling asleep.

So what about Ali the rapper? Does he rise to the occasion? Well yes and no, he sounds like a complete tool for the most part, but his deep, rumbling, southern accented voice isn’t an unpleasant instrument. It’s just that his goofy thug raps aren’t very memorable one has to pay some serious attention to find out whether or not it is him on the mic on every one of the three St. Lunatics posse cuts, which means that each of the ‘tics could’ve recorded the exact same album with this set of beats.

Still the overall inoffensiveness and occasional cachiness of this, while not the most convincing argument for a purchase ever made, means that this is some perfectly decent party music, and that definitely counts for something.

Best songs
I Got This
Wiggle Wiggle

Buy this only if you’re nostalgic for the Country Grammar era and sound. This makes for a decent second serving.

Maroon 5 – Call And Response: The Remix Album

Maroon 5
Call And Response: The Remix Album
December 9, 2008
A&M OctoneUMG
Maroon 5 - Call and Respond The Remix Album
1. If I Never See Your Fage Again [Swizz Beatz Remix] (feat. Cross) // 2. Wake Up Call [Mark Ronson Remix] (feat. Mary J. Blige)  // 3. Sunday Morning [Questlove Remix] // 4. Makes Me Wonder [Just Blaze Remix] // 5. This Love [C. “Tricky” Stewart Remix] // 6. She Will Be Loved [Pharrell Williams Remix] // 7. Shiver [DJ Quik Remix] // 8. Wake Up Call [David Banner Remix] (feat. David Banner) // 9. Harder To Beathe [The Cool Kids Remix] (feat. the Cool Kids) // 10. Little of Your Time [Bloodshy And Avant Remix] // 11. Little Of Your Time [Of Montreal Remix] // 12. Goodnight Goodnight [Deerhoof Remix] // 13. Not Falling Apart [Tiësto Remix] // 14. Better That We Break [Ali Shaheed Mohammed & Doc Remix] // 15. Secret [DJ Premier Remix] // 16. Woman [Sam Fararr Remix] // 17. This Love [Cut Copy Galactic Beach House Remix] // 18. If I Never See Your Face Again [Paul Oakenfold Remix] (feat. Rihanna)

Remix albums of conventional pop acts tend to age horribly and usually don’t sound very good to begin with.
Usually when greedy record executive commision one an artist’s back catalog is stripped of some or most of its instrumentals and thrown over beats that incorporates whatever EDM or hip-hop style is en vogue at the time of the album’s release. If the remixer of a particular track is a hip-hop producer usually a rapper gets called in to do one or two thowaway verses, and because there’s typically none of the artists that created the original songs around for quality controll and because appearing on the remix of the latest pop tart’s latest single, which you don’t necessarily fancy, an act with a fanbase that doesn’t necessarily fancy you, is an ungrateful chore usually said rappers can’t be blamed for not bringing their A-game to the table. And the same usually goes for the high priced EDM DJs that are called in to create club bangers.

As much as I want to like West-Coast hip-hop legend DJ Quik, East-Coast hip-hop legend DJ Premier, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Mohammed, music legend in general Pharrell Williams, hipster rappers the Cool Kids and southern stalwart David Banner taking on M5 tracks (being that I’m both a huge M5 fan and a huge hip-hop head and given that these are usually each very reliable producers) all they go to show is that yes Maroon 5 is very much a band and taking Adam’s vocal tracks out of their original band-surroundings completely takes away the appeal.
It also doesn’t help that especially the Pharrell and Premier tracks sound like some studio tool was given the task to unimaginatively create instrumentals that sounds like the work of the people they’re credited to on the back of this album.
Oh well, at least the Swizzy contribution sucks as much as I thought it would, which doesn’t make up for anything, but is reassuring nontheless. Who the hell is this Cross guy anyway, and who did he have to fellate to appear on a major label release by a succesful pop act?

The Oakenfold and Tiësto contributions at the very least should serve their purpose of getting some girls people to dance at the club, but it’s debatable whether any non-diskjockey would need to own these tracks, and whether those who would aren’t better off picking them up on EDM compilations where they appear alongside similarly minded stomping concoctions.

Then there’s pop heavyweights Bloodshy & Avant and C. Tricky Stewart’s contributions, which simply take away the organic feeling of the originals, replace it with crappy midi-music and call it a night. I hope Adam and co. just had these remixes lying around from varying single-releases and decided to compile them rather then commission them specifically for this album, because that would be a waste of time and.. well not really resources, the best thing Bloodshy & Avant ever did was Britney Spears’ Toxic.
The alternative rock band Of Montréal’s remix of Little Of Your Time sounds like someone fucking around with sound effects, keyboards, distorted guitars and fruityloops in such a horrible manner that these people should be dragged onto the streets and egged by a mob of angry villagers.
The Deerhoof Remix of Goodnight Goodnight, while not very good in and by itself, sounds like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles collaborating with Michael Jackson-good in comparison.

Now for the good. Mark Ronson brings the very best track with his remix of Wake Up Call which pairs Levine’s vocals with those of Mary J. Blige to good results. (Unlike all the previous pairings, bar Tiësto and Paul, this pairing, actually makes sense on paper.)
Just Blaze reimagines Make Me Wonder as a Elton John meets Justin Timberlake-ish ballad, which while not topping the uptempo disco original version does show some good imagination, and doesn’t sound like shit, which is awesome in the context of this album.
And the Cut Copy Galactic Beach house version of This Love has a nice percolating New Order-ish groove you can dance to, even if Adam’s vocal contribution is so edited-down that M5 might as well could have been credited as providing the source material for this track’s creators to have sampled, but certainly not as featured, let alone this song’s main artists. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s about as good as this album gets, but should be mentioned anyway.

With eighteen different remix outfits creating these eighteen remixes this album doesn’t even suck consistently, each track gets to regurgitate semen in its very own unique way. Also, they should’ve included the Kanye West remix of This Love because that would be track that fans might actually want to own, and perhaps Levine’s duet with mr. West Heard ‘Em Say, because it is essentially an alternate version to IWSBL‘s Nothing Lasts Forever (even if it is the original version.)

In short, this album is mostly a mixed bag of several flavours of uninspired, misguidedly created bullshit, made mostly from perfectly good original tracks. Everything sucks, except the below five tracks. Although in all fairness you could probably live a good, fulfilling  life without having ever heard those either.

Avoid at al costs.

Best tracks
Wake Up Call [Mark Ronson Remix]
Makes Me Wonder [Just Blaze Remix]
Not Falling Apart [Tiësto Remix]
If I Never See Your Face Again [Paul Oakenfold Remix]
This Love [Cut Copy Galactic Beach House Remix]

What the fuck do you think?

Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Various Artists
Irv Gotti Presents: the Remixes
November 5, 2002
Murder Inc. Records/ Def Jam Recordings/ UMG
Irv Gotti Presents the Remixes

1. The Remixes [Skit] // 2. Unfoolish (Ashanti feat. the Notorious B.I.G.) // 3. I’m So Happy (Ashanti feat. Charlie Baltimore, D.O. Cannons & Young Merc) // 4. The Pledge [Remix] (Ashanti, Ja Rule, NaS & 2pac) // 5. O.G. [Remix] (Black Child & Caddilac Tah) // 6. Boss [Skit] // 7. Me & My Boyfriend (Toni Braxton feat. 2pac) // 8. Come-N-Go (Ashanti, Ja Rule, Caddilac Tah & 7Aurelius) // 9. Poverlous (Caddilac Tah)  // 10. Spanish Dancing [Skit] // 11. Rainy Dayz [Remix] (Mary J. Blige feat. Ja Rule) // 12. Moreno [Skit] // 13. Baby [Remix] (Ashanti feat. Scarface) // 14. Hard Livin’ (D.O. Cannons & Young Merc) // 15. No One Does It Better (Black Child, Caddilac Tah & Ja Rule) // 16. Remo’s Back [Skit] // 17. We Dem Boyz (Let’s Ride) (Chink Santana, D.O. Cannons & Young Merc) // 18. Baby [Remix] (Ashanti feat. Crooked I)

Remixes of tried and true hits and some added bonuses in the form of new tracks by Caddilac Tah and Black Child and some new cats (groan). 2pac involentarily pops up on two tracks, one of which, a Toni Braxton song, at least techically actually could have happened back in the ’90s because both Toni and Pac were around, and which started a beef between Braxton and Jay-Z who sampled the same pac song for his ’03 Bonnie & Clyde.

Scarface his vocals, featured first on a song called Mary Jane are reused for a remix of Ashanti’s Baby because the original already had stolen its beat already anyway. Then at the tail end of this dated novelty project a horribly miscast Crooked I re-does the re-mix in order to appear in full Ja Rule-capacity in its video, complete with mink coat. (I’m sure he doesn’t like it Joe, Joell and Royce bring that shit up.)

But hey some of the Ashanti tracks aren’t horrible, except for Unfoolish, which although it doesn’t sound bad, we had heard already on her own album, and which graverobs Biggie and morbidly puts him on the same album as 2pac, they’re all welcome additions to het catalogue. I’m So Happy more or less swipes the beat from the Gap Band’s Outstanding, which the original titled Happy did in a much more subtle manner, and The Pledge [Remix] replaces Caddilac Tah with NaS (no complaints there besides the 2pac thing.)

Besides Irv ruining Jeffrey’s Mary J. Blige duet Rainiy Dayz nobody does anything else worth mentioning so I’mma call it a day.

Best tracks
I’m So Happy, The Pledge [Remix], Baby [Remix] (Crooked I version)

What do you think?

Irv Gotti Presents: the Inc.

Various artists
Irv Gotti presents: the Inc
July 2, 2002
Murder Inc. Records/ Def Jam Recordings/ UMG
Various artists - Irv Gotti presents the Inc

1. Intro (Irv Gotti, Chink Santana, Ronnie Bumps & Caddilac Tah) // 2. Gangstafied (Ja Rule, Caddilac Tah & Chink Santana) // 3. Down 4 U (Ja Rule, Ashanti, Vita & Charlie Baltimore) // 4. Nobody Does It Better (Charlie Baltimore & Ashanti) // 5. It’s Murda (Caddilac Tah, Chink Santana & D.C.) // 6. The Pledge (Ashanti & Caddilac Tah) // 7. Ride With Us (Jody Mack, Black Child & 0-1) // 8. O.G. (Black Child) // 9. The Rain (Jody Mack, 0-1 & Ja Rule) // 10. Here We Come (Vita, Irv Gotti & Ronnie Bumps) // 11. We Still Don’t Give a Fuck (Ronnie Bumps, D.O. Cannons, Young Merc, Jody mack, Rah, 0-1, Charlie Baltimore, Caddilac Tah & Black Child) // 12. 1 Hearse, 2 Suburban (Black Child, Ronnie Bumps & Young Merc) // 13. Ain’t It Funny [Remix] (Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule & Caddilac Tah) // 14. Tha Nexx Niggaz (Chink Santana, Eastwood, Crooked I, Ronnie Bumps, Dave Bing, Black Child & Caddilac Tah) // 15. DC Joe [Skit] // 16. Hold On (Chink Santana)

A huge step up from Irv Gotti Presents: the Murderers but that’s not saying much. The production is slightly better than on either Pain is Love or Ashanti, which is saying something because production was mostly what those albums have going for them.

The fact that this manages to still be a less pleasant listening experience than either of those two albums is because this is ment to promote a revolving door cast of people nobody wants to hear record music. The best tracks on here feature vocals by people who already were known to the general public, so it’s a total failiure in that aspect. The only new guy who comes off as semi decent is Chink Santana who adds a faux West Coast vibe to some of these tracks with his Nate Dogg meets Bone Thugs vocals on some of the refrains and his Daz Dillinger-esque beats.

One bit of trivia will be of interest to fans of today’s hiphop. Crooked I makes a brief appearance on the posse cut Tha Nexx Niggaz, with Eastwood, because Death Row records, his record label at that time, had some kind of side deal with the Inc. that required Row and Inc. artists to appear on one another’s projects. Not that one-and-a-half bar by Crooked I make the Nexx Niggaz a must-listen or anything. And the gazilion bars by the likes of Caddilac Tah and Black Child will make any fan of well-written rap’s head explode. At least Crooked gets his contribution out of the way early, so you can turn that shit off when he’s done and get on with your life.

Not that everything here sounds like shit. Down 4 U is a prime Ja-Ashanti duet for those who are into that sort of thing, the Pledge is mostly Ashanti doing her thing over a bastardised 2pac beat. And Gangstafied, the opening track has a beat so teriffically ominous that even Caddy and Ronnie Bumps can’t completely wreck it, although not for lack of trying, mind you.

If this album were stripped of all the vocals of weed carriers and replaced by those of Jeffrey, or better yet a competent rapper like for instance the previously mentioned Crooked I, this might’ve been a rather decent album. Alas it is what it is.

Best tracks
Down 4 U
The Pledge

Download the above tracks of iTunes or Amazon or Spotify.

Ashanti – Ashanti

April 2, 2002
Murder Inc. Records/ Def Jam Recordings/ UMG
Ashanti - Ashanti
1. Intro // 2. Foolish // 3. Happy // 4. Leavin (Always on Time [Part II]) (feat. Ja Rule) // 5. Narrative Call [Skit] // 6. Call // 7. Scared (feat. Irv Gotti) // 8. Rescue // 9. Baby // 10. Voodoo // 11. Movies // 12. Fight (Over) [Skit] // 13. Over // 14. Unfoolish (feat. the Notorious B.I.G.) // 15. Shi Shi [Skit] // 16. Dreams // 17. Thank You

When listening to the snippets of hit singles Ashanti was featured on prior to recording this album, on the intro, one gets the impression that Ashanti’s number-one asset, besides looking gorgeous, is her ability to peacefully co-exist with nearly any rapper on a track. Even though she always sings in key and, more impressively, never engages in Stevie Wonder-esque melisma, like Beyoncé does always, she also never was the standout thing about the song she was featured on. That’s not to say she doesn’t bring anything to the table, far from it. Classic rapped/sung collaborations such as Always on Time and What’s Luv? wouldn’t have clicked remotely as well as they did without our hostess’ presence. It’s just that she was always there in a anonymous studio singer #9205 capacity, rather than as the next big R&B diva.

Yet and still Ashanti was the beginning of a several multi-platinum album career, not by having her trying to be Beyoncé, but by using her strengths. Ashanti walks through her debut album at a steady pace without so much as breaking a sweat, showing the world that if nothing else she’s at least an unrivaled mistress of lithe. With Irv Gotti and his second-in-comands 7Aurelius and Chink Santana breaking out soul sampling productions covered in a thin layer of shimmer powder, which is blown into the athmoshere via swooshing wind-effects.

Everything is tastefully done. With the absence of useless oversinging goes a absence of useless drama. When here relationship is good Ashanti isn’t Crazy In Love, but rather she is Happy. When she’s lamenting her inability to get out of a sour relationship with clarity on Foolish you have the feeling she’s going to be alright. You are proven correct on the Biggie mash-up sequel Unfoolish, twelve tracks later. She also does sensual better than many a contemporary, on tracks such as VoodooMovies and Baby, simply by putting her sexual confidence casually rather than making some sort of pseudo-bold statement out of it.

Finding highlights or low points on here is hard. A high point could be Unfoolish because it makes rather clever use of two Notorious B.I.G. verses plus ab-libs previously heard on his own Fuck You Tonight. The deal is, Debarge’s A Dream, which is sampled extensively on both Foolish and Unfoolish is also used B.I.G.’s own 1994 single One More Chance [Remix]. So what you have here is vocals and instrumentals of two B.I.G. songs mashed-up with Ashanti thrown in for good measure.

A low point is when Ashanti and Ja decide to reprise Always on Time but fail to come up with something catchy, and Jeffrey’s raspy voice nearly disrupts the impeccable, rippling flow of the album, which is otherwise nearly flawless. It really says it all that if Ashanti and these producers do their thing for an entire album without missing a step, and that only guest artists can influence the quality, either positively or negatively.

Best tracks
Foolish, Unfoolish, Happy, Baby

If you’re looking for sparkly, slight, cute pop-R&B that evaporates from the human conscience immediately and completely when you turn it off, Ashanti is your way to go. She certainly doesn’t suck, nor does she demand a purchase. I recommend a buy, but with the lowest priority.

50 Cent – Guess Who’s Back?

50 Cent
Guess Who’s Back?
April 26, 2002
Full Clip
Guess Who's Back (front)

1. Killa Tape [Intro] // 2. Rotten Apple // 3. Drop [Skit] // 4. That’s What’s Up (feat. G-Unit) // 5. U Not Like Me // 6. 50 Bars // 7. Life’s On the Line // 8. Get Out the Club // 9. Be a Gentleman // 10. Fuck You // 11. Too Hot (feat. NaS & Nature) // 12. Who U Rep With (feat. NaS & Nature) // 13. Corner Bodega // 14. Ghetto Qu’ran (Forgive Me) // 15. As the World Turns (feat. Bun B) // 16. Woo Kid Freestyle (feat. G-Unit) // 17. Stretch Armstrong Freestyle // 18. Doo Wop Freestyle

All things considered logically 50 Cent’s should’ve died when he got shot-up by what Fiddy claims to be henchmen for Kenneth “Supreme”  McGriff for recording Ghetto Qu’ran. 50 Would’ve become a hood legend, Big L style and Columbia Records would’ve released Power of the Dollar even though they originally wanted to shelve it, because martyrdom sells. 2pac’s estate built a whole stack of gold to multi-platinum releases off it. When that didn’t happen, and he got dropped by Columbia, because although he hadn’t died yet there was no question the people who shot him would have another crack at wacking him. And who could predict where and when they would do it or where the stray bullets might end up? (Interscope followed that same logic dropping a freshly gunned-down and locked up 2pac in 1994) by all means logically should’ve been blackballed by the industry, never to find a record deal again. This is because record label executives are scared shitless when it comes to dealing with someone who seems to have a bull’s-eye glued to their back. If they aren’t fearful for their lives then at the very least they may believe they won’t be able to recoup their investment and their employee’s record advance.

Initially this did happen, so mr. Cent being unable to find a label for which to record and a studio that would have him left for Canada, where he wasn’t blacklisted, to record and decided to enter the industry via the backdoor recording mixtapes with and without his crew G-Unit. With Curtis Jackson actually making money off these tapes and his live shows he reestablished his name in the New York rap scene. At one point he decided to collect some of these mixtape tracks, as well as songs off Power of the Dollar which didn’t make the final cut of the EP, and release the collection in the form of Guess Who’s Back? to record stores, I imagine New York wide, via the indie label Full Clip records. Then a bidding war erupted to sign Fiddy Thent. Somehow Guess Who’s Back? had found its way into Eminem’s stack of demo’s and Marshall Mathers liked what he heard so much that he decided to have a crack at signing him, in spite of the surrounding controversy. 50 jumped on the Shady/ Aftermath/ Interscope train and the rest is history as they say.

Guess Who’s Back? sounds like a mixtape/album hybrid, which isn’t surprising since a part of the tracks came from his unofficial output and a part of the tracks was supposed to be released on Power of the Dollar, a major label album. The few guest appearances are either natural (his G-Unit crew, with Yayo, sans Buck) or mystifying (the Bravehearts and Nature, both one time NaS’  weedcarriers. ) It’s especially hilarious to hear 50 bragging about “repping with QB, nigga” since the Bravehears both suck on the mic and never really became famous, whereas Fiddy was arguably the biggest hip-hop star from the mid-naughties. Off course NaS, who at the time of this song’s recording was much more famous than 50, is on here, too so it doesn’t lack complete sense. But it’s still funny to imagine Curtis having to put in an effort to get on this posse cut suckfest, hoping to achieve some mainstream exposure, only to have it disappear in the Columbia records vaults. It is hard to be believe that 50 would’ve dug it up it if it weren’t for the NaS namebrand recognition because the song isn’t very good. Too Hot is much better with a beat that sounds DJ Premier, NaS having one of those “kill everyone else on the track in one verse” days, Nature delivering his best verse ever and 50 coming up with a catchy hook. Since Guess Who’s Back? being a semi-official release, doesn’t come with liner notes it’s impossible to tell for sure who produced what. (Except for the tracks that were supposed to end up on Power of the Dollar and tracks that would later be used as bonus tracks for 50 Cent’s third debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’.)

The ghetto self-help anthem Fuck You also has that Primo-sound, what with its dusty piano and drums and its refrain consisting exclusively from scratched-in vocal samples. Considering how eager Fiddy was to emphasize “[he is] reppin’ QB” on Who U Rep With, that DJ Premier actually is a big name in hiphop and doesn’t get name-checked even once it’s unlikely that he actually produced on here.  Whether he did or not, on here Curtis actually makes a case for that he would actually sound good over a real DJ Premier beat, talking about the events of his shooting and his ambitions regarding the rap game with a commendable passion and a killer wit.

More often than not though the tracks off Guess Who’s Back? are flawed. Rotten Apple has a rather ominous string loop backing it and was apparently this project’s only single, which is surprising because this kind of project typically doesn’t have singles, and also because both lyrically and beatwise it’s one of the album’s least engaging moments. Be a Gentleman is a not-so-subtle Jay-Z diss, which seems to be included only to stir up controversy and thereby interest for Curtis’ fledgling mainstream career. (This as opposed to Life’s on the Line on which Fiddy obviously means business with Ja Rule.) On Get out the Club Curtis goes after women who go after certain men because of their wealth and utters “bitch” more often than Too $hort would on an entire album. U Not Like Me and features some pretty hot verses, and again probably goes after Jeffrey Atkins but suffers from a boring-ass beat and an especially uninspired chorus.

That’s about as far as the new recordings that weren’t reviewed in the Power of the Dollar post go. That leaves a bunch of freestyles: That’s What’s Up50 Bars and the three tracks on the tail end of the disc. These work just fine as lyrical showcases for 50 and/or his crew but aren’t really good for anything else, mostly because of low sound quality and shitty instrumentals, as well as DJ Shout-outs disrupting the flow.

Overall Guess Who’s Back? makes for a decent semi-official pre-album mixtape. It is however nothing more than that. It’s too scattershot to function as a proper album. It is however easy to see how Eminem got the idea that signing Curtis would be a good idea, while listening to this. Although not everything on here works, not in small part due to the shoestring budget it was created on, Guess Who’s Back? is a decent showcase for 50’s skills. In the post Candy Shop-world it’s also pretty damn refreshing to hear the man spit with hunger. And especially in hip-hop there’s something to say for grit and style over polish and shine. Style this album serves in large amounts.

Best tracks
Killa Tape [Intro], Life’s on the Line, Fuck You, Too Hot, Ghetto Qu’ran (Forgive Me)

Guess Who’s Back is for die hard Curtis Jackson fans only. Specifically those who hate the direction his music took after *spoiler alert* the man completely fucking ran out of good ideas somewhere halfway during the recording of the Massacre. If that includes you and you find Guess Who’s Back? for a reasonable fee, by all means pick it up. General hiphop fans should just download the above tracks and be done with it.

Thicke – A Beautiful World


A Beautiful World


Nu Amerika/ Interscope/ Universal Music Group

Robin Thicke is a singer-songwriter who’s usually filed under R&B. Before and since he decided that if Justin Timberlake could have a successful solo-career as a blue eyed soul artist than he could too, goddamnit, he helped pen songs for among others Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige and Usher and even a would-be hit for Michael Jackson (The Jacko song he co-wrote with adult-contemporary shtickmaster Walter Afanasieff is called Fall Again and was supposed to be featured on his 2001 album Invincible but wasn’t finished for reasons unknown to me. In 2004 a demo however was released on a MJ boxset while a less significant R&B singer from Canada named Glen Lewis recorded his version of the song and released it on the soundtrack of the Jennifer Lopez film Maid in Manhattan in 2002. If you’d like to hear Thick’s interpretation of this song. Go listen to Kenny G’s version, although off course it does off course feature the superative of cheesy sax, but that’s Kenny’s bread and butter.) Armed with these credentials and a voice that sounds like Mr. Thicke is JT’s long lost brother who shared a larynx with him at birth, he and co-producer Pro J got it cracking in the studio after André Harrell signed him to his Nu Amerika subsidiary of Insterscope. He then slabbed an artfully nude picture of his beautiul girlfriend, now wife, Paula Patton, on the album cover, just because he could. Today I will listen to that album which was actually a re-release of his 2002 album Cherry Blue Skies with a few extra songs and a different sequencing. Why Cherry Blue Skies was released, then deleted from the catalog and then re-released with a different title I don’t know. Maybe someone at Interscope Records/ Nu Amerika realized Cherries actually aren’t blue. It certainly didn’t help the album sell any copies and for my money seems like a pretty pointless move. What I do know is that Pharrell signed him to his Star Trak label a few years after this puppy tanked and left him mostly alone in the studio to craft his 2006 sophomore The Evolution of Robin Thicke. I think he made this decision mostly based on listening to A Beautiful World and that’s why I’m curious about it. Also, this was by no means a bad business move on Pharrell’s part because since signing with his label Robin had been a pretty successful artist.

1. Shooter

One difference between Justin and Thicke is that Thicke on occasion actually has a somewhat original musical idea while Justin exclusively does updates of his idols Michael Jackson and Prince while coasting along on his producers Timbaland and Pharrel’s hipness. Shooter doesn’t sound like anything in 2003’s contemporary R&B. Its hiphop influences are confined to the occasional scratching and… violent lyrics. Anyway, the guitars and keys used make this decisively retro-sounding and the build-up ending in the climactic sounds of actual gunfire give this a cinematic edge. Thicke’s vocal sounds stoned out of its mind throughout which adds to the surreal feel of it all. His distorted vocal during the breakdown sounds a lot more animated which creates a nice contrast. Shooter is interesting, fresh and a rather enjoyable affair. Thicke apparently liked the song so much he reprised it on his sophomore album The Evolution of Robin Thicke released on Pharrell’s Star Trak label in 2006. In an effort not to piss off one of the four people who had listened to A Beautiful World (those people apparently being Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and me) he asked the most en vogue rapper of the moment, Lil Wayne to add some raps where there were vocal voids in the song. No wait that’s wrong. Weezy apparently jacked Shooter wholesale for his Tha Carter II album, Thicke’s vocals included, only to add some meh verses and some ad-libs that detracted from the overall equation. With that version becoming far more popular than the original Thicke had little choice but to put it on his sophomore. Still, the solo version included on A Beautiful World is much  more compact and pleasant to listen to.

2. A Beautiful World

The sparse use of an electronic piano and little else help highlight the simple beauty of Thicke’s falsetto in a spacy, Prince-ly way. Now if it weren’t for those clunky pretentious bullshit lyrics this would be rather enjoyable.

3. Suga Mama

Songs about the opposite sex are abundant but never redundant because people will always give a fuck. (No pun intended) The instrumental is groovy enough in a Neptunes produced track taken from Justified manner. The vocal however, while technically being pretty decent, sounds so much like the purple one (especially during the falsetto bit) that this comes off as wholly unoriginal. Alas, Thicke can get lost in imitation as much as Justin. And no this does not contradict my statements made about Shooter because those comments were ment to be applied to that song only.

4. Flowers in Bloom

Spacy, scratchy sound effects, a simple guitar line mixed into the background so effectively you can barely hear it and a bit too much Justin-ishness for my taste. On a strictly musical level this doesn’t make me want to give up on listening to A Beautiful World and use it as a Frisbee in stead but it is not very exciting.

5. When I Get You Alone

The first single off A Beautiful World and the only one to chart as far as I know. Walter Murphy and his Big Apple Band discofied Ludwig von Beethoven’s 1808 Fifth Symphony and labeled it A Fifth of Beethoven, which was included on the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack in ’77. Producer Ty Fyffe sampled that track for young rapper A+’s 1997 hit Enjoy Yourself and here Thicke jacks that instrumental wholesale to land his dorky lyrics in a stuttery delivery on. (I mean… “Baby girl, you’re the shit. That makes you my equivalent.” The fuck?) That line, delivered without any sense of irony whatsoever, could make even R. Kelly blush. This was the first single and as far as I know the only one that got any airplay anywhere. The fact that this wasn’t a hit in the English-speaking world doesn’t surprise me one bit. Although songs with even nerdier come-ons have made their way to the charts (like anything Katy Perry has done. Ever.)

6. The Stupid Things

I’ll give Thicke this much credit. His imitations of soul and sincerity are soulful and sincere. Even on this boring-as-fuck adult contemporary R&B-ballad.

7. I’m a Be Alright

This tries to be the indie-rock-tinged funky party song and isn’t too annoying for what it is. The song’s positive message would help this go down if the lyrics were more comprehensible. I think I heard Thicke’s slightly distorted vocal sing something about pouring champagne over himself which is a stupid thing to do. If you’re going to pour bubbly over anyone it’d better be the hottie with the black lingerie underneath the white outfit…  Anyway it’s highly likely he never said that shit in the first place. Can’t tell what he did say… Moving on.

8. Brand New Jones

The second and last single. Except for that he shouldn’t have waited until right before the fade-out before letting the horns to kick in this song isn’t half bad. The music is p-funky. The stuttery singing complete with Jacko-esque vocal tics is appropriately and adequately performed and the lyrics, unless you hear “some like to get peed on” rather than “some like to keep heat on” like some jackass commenting on this song’s youtube video did (although it wasn’t that far-fetched), aren’t too corny or R. Kelly ridiculous. Well played sir!

9. Vengas Conmigo

The mandatory gimmicky Latin-styled track of which every artist in the early 2000s included a version on their respective albums because they thought that’d give them some much needed appeal to the worldwide Hispanic community and make them sound extremely exotic to white people. This doesn’t suck or sound that out-of-place on A Beautiful World is an achievement of sorts. Still not that good a song though.

10. Flex

More blatant Prince imitating going on here. This time it’s his funk-rockier side that gets jacked.

11. Make a Baby

This reminded me of the Beatles because if it’s overly simple poppiness but since I haven’t heard a lot of the Beatles’ catalog I couldn’t tell you what period or what song this is similar to. Also there may be another artist who might make for a better comparison. Fuckit. I don’t care… I’m more of a Stones guy anyway. The hook is pretty awful but otherwise this won’t piss anoybody off.

12. She’s Gangsta

No, Thicke does not give busting rhymes a try. In stead we get another Prince rip-off  that sounds like Justin Timberlake is singing it in the vein of Flex.

13. Lazy Bones

More funkish, indie rock stuff. This style seems to suit Thicke well enough even if it is not my cup of tea.

14. Cherry Blue Skies

I fucking hate these social commentary songs. Honestly, why do these little pop stars insist on trying to change the world through their music? Even when Michael Jackson does that it pisses me off… But if I pay no asttention to the lyrics I suppose this one gets a pass.

Best songs
Shooter, Brand New Jones

Thicke’s A Beautiful World is too an gimmicky album by someone who isn’t a gimmicky artist per se. That he has a talent for making music cannot be denied, even by a cynical asshole such as myself. He has a nice singing voice, although one that’s very much reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s and a falsetto that at one point sounds identical to Prince’s which is both an achievement of some kind and something that prevents the songs on which he uses it from really taking off. On here he also shares with JT a tendency to write horrible corny lyrics. Really awful would be poetry that will give you nightmares. The best example of which would be When I Get You Alone’s second verse. Still, the fact that Thicke produced the entirety of this fucker with partner in crime Pro J, and doesn’t do half bad a job imitating earlier generations of soul singers (mostly Prince) is admirable. As is the fact that there’s only one song on here that sounds a lot like the Neptunes’ take on mr. Nelson Rogers, which was the flavor of the month at the time. All Thicke needs in my opinion is some original ideas and he’ll probably make some thoroughly enjoyable music. I don’t see him making a timeless classic ever but that’s not necessarily a problem. And who knows? Maybe he’ll prove me wrong. A Beautiful World doesn’t contain anything cacophonic (I’ve always thought there’s no better word for shitty sounding than cacophonic!) so that’s nice. And I definitely will get at The Evolution of Robin Thicke in the near future.


If you see this album in the discount section for a few bucks, euro’s or rubles, by all means go for it. You’ll get two songs that are quite excellent and lots of filler that’ll make for some fun, funky, light background music which won’t impair your conversation with that cutie on the hypothetical house party where you could be playing this. You should not however sit down and pay close attention to A Beautiful World as I did because it just isn’t that kind of album. Beautiful World won’t raise your blood pressure too much unless you look for thought-through, well written lyrics and originality in music specifically. But don’t go spend large sums of money on this because it’s not worth it.

Please leave a comment using your facebook and/or (ugh…) twitter account or a guest account. We of Straight from the Crates appreciate every single one of them!