Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Don't Buy These Cubic Zirconias: Diamond District's In the Ruff
OverallDon’t buy. Don’t buy this album unless you’re a beat junkie like me, who would buy it just to get “Who I Be”. But if you’re looking for a solid all around album, this is not it. While it does remind one of the late 80’s, early 90’s brand of hip-hop, where the music was a gritty report about the inner city, lyrically it falls waayyyyy short. The rappers seem focused on hip-hop as a means of financial advancement without an appreciation for the craft. There are a couple of highly notable beats on this album, produced by Oddisee, but otherwise, steer clear.
IntroWhile the beats aren’t as complex and you can tell by the CD packaging that the big money was not behind this project, it is like a small restaurant, which has the hallmarks of high quality, and the quality is apparent.
Streets Won’t Let Me ChillThis song’s production is solid. No, it’s not Nottz, they probably couldn’t afford it. No, it’s not Just Blaze … he’s probably too much also, but what’s inspiring is that they don’t even try to use that as an excuse. They simply take the well-engineered beat and deliver lyrics that aren’t mind-boggling, but still hit bone. Pardon my French, but just a good fucking song. Big Ups to the producer, Oddisee. Grade: Solid.
Who I BeOddisee delivers another solidly gritty track, which reminds one of New York in the 80’s. Funny enough it reminds me that though NY has improved in terms of crime rates the rest of Black America hasn’t. DC is still going through it. Hip-hop used to be the ghetto CNN. Just as Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate, and not for movie magic, Diamond District uses hip-hop for it’s original purpose, to communicate pain. But Oddisee does this by himself, just with a beat. As for lyrics, they’re decent, a general rendition of representing oneself in the hood, but the beat just runs away with the song. Grade: Special.
I Mean BusinessWell, everybody has bad days. The beat isn’t super impressive, though it holds it’s own. And the flow of the group isn’t like a samurai’s soul, it doesn’t glow. Therefore, in this case, if the beat doesn’t support the song effortlessly, it seems that their flow will not carry the tune alone. As for what the song is about … it’s unfocused, and therefore unclear. However midway through the track it switches up with a verse that redeems the song. Hmmm … maybe I’ll keep an eye on these guys. Grade: Resurrected.
Get In LineThis song resonates with brothers still on the block, with poor educations, but unlike The Clipse or Young Jeezy, it doesn’t glorify, but rather recounts like Henry Hill in Goodfellas (the book). The mix needs to be redone, due to the fact that the vocals don’t pop, but it works. The substance of these songs is the lives of peripheral characters on the Wire. Grade: Well done.
In The RuffThe lyrics once again aren’t inedible but they’re not gourmet fare. However, the beat, it’s cool. Grade: Aiight plus.
The ShiningThe lyrics sound like the Outlaws (remember Tupac … and the Outlawz … yeah them). It’s like it’s really filler. While the third verse is average plus, maybe even decent, the other verses are just peanut butter. Grade: Aiight minus.
The DistrictA song about DC. Didn’t even grab my attention. It seems as though these guys rap for fame or to eat (which I don’t knock the hustle) but not out of raw love or talent. Therefore, it’s bland. Actually part of the hook is “Shining is Our Goal. Look at me shining.” I guess they said it themselves. Grade: Weak.
Make It ClearUsing a little Jigga in the ‘hook’ is a clever way to buy some fame/shine but other than this the track is wholly unmemorable. The first verse talks about some basic hood grudges, there’s a slightly notable name check to the stock market, but then the return to the shittyness of the hood and gentrification. However, there is no delving into any of these topics and no Notorious BIG cinematic flow, no Jay-Z dropping the science, no Lupe dropping wisdom, no Ludacris entertainment, no Eminem flowtastic, no Cee-Lo spirituality, no Dre creativity, no Big Boi hood-floss, no, no, no … Grade: No.
Off The Late NightThis track grabs you from the outset. The ménage-je-trois of the trumpet, organ, and the bass are braided together in a sloppy but still sexy way, the way a middle aged chicks boobs are still hot, saggy but still hot. Oddisee’s verse, or rather his semi-nasal tone allows for his delivery to grab your attention, but it won’t for long due to the fact that the content is not that interesting. Grade: Cool (due to the track).
Let Me ExplainThis song reminds me of King Geedorah. It’s just words but there’s no emotion or message. Just not good. Grade: Not good.
First TimeThis song is interesting for the same reason all the others are not lyrically. This is the first time (haaa!) that these rappers are speaking personally in terms about themselves. It grabbed me from the first verse because he begins (there are no liner notes) with a lyric about the first record deal he ever signed. Now that he was speaking in the first person about his life specifically I wanted to listen, instead of speaking in general. There still isn’t any lyrical acclaim, but it’s a starting point. The beat … it was aiight. Song: C+.
Something for Ya’llA little audio soft-core porn for the ladies (I gather from the title). It’ll work for some chicks but there’s no romance or mischievous intent, there’s no slickness and therefore it fails. The beats don’t fail, the lyrics do however. The second verse gives some pause for a minute due to the nasal and crisp intonation but it fails in the end. Grade: No good.
HologramA backpacker beat with a decent third verse, but it’s not enough to save the song, but it is notable. I want to give it an okay but the truth is … Grade: Weak.