My Young Gunz review
was on Stylus on Friday. For those following at home, every review I've published in the past 2 months has been of either rappers from Philly or R&B singers. I feel like I'm inadvertantly establishing a niche. But hey, Cassidy and Freeway have albums dropping this summer.Note: In light of the end of Stylus in 2007, I decided to archive the text of all my reviews for the site on this blog for posterity, since I don't what the future holds for the Stylus domain, and have included both the letter grade ratting that accompanied the original review, and an adjusted rating that I would give the record now in retrospect.
Brothers From Another
Stylus rating: C-
Adjusted rating by reviewer: C-
since becoming breakout stars of Beanie Sigel’s Philly supergroup State Property in 2003 with the hit “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” the Young Gunz have become the token pop rappers out of a notoriously grimy crew. No pinups themselves, Young Chris and Neef could only be considered heartthrobs standing alongside the burly Sigel and the neckbearded Freeway. On their second album, Brothers From Another, they scale back the unconvincing gun talk of last year’s debut Tough Luv, and focus on the old school aesthetic established by singles like “Can’t Stop” and “Friday Night,” right down to the Run DMC-style hats and Adidas outfits they sport on the cover.
Brothers From Another clocks in at a paltry 43 minutes, padded by the inclusion of “Grown Man Pt. 2,” a remix originally released over a year ago of a Tough Luv track. To blame the album’s mediocrity on the brevity and quick turnaround of the product wouldn’t quite be fair, though, as Chris and Neef probably couldn’t create a hot album with all the time in the world. Young Chris has perhaps one of the worst voices in mainstream hip hop, rhyming in a flat, charmless groan, and consistently fails to prove why he’s supposed to be the duo’s standout lyricist. The comparatively underrated Neef Buck is a little more nimble on the mic, upstaging his partner on the lead single “Set It Off” with the swerving flow of lines like “ain't worried bout you weirdos, your heroes, wannabe De Niro's / Til that thing get sinked wit them air holes”.
As with Tough Luv, Brothers From Another benefits from State Property producer Chad “Wes” Hamilton handling the bulk of the tracks. Hamilton has come up as one of the hottest producers in the Roc’s production stable in recent years, putting in work while Kanye and Just Blaze’s asking prices skyrocketed, but instead of elevating his status, he’s merely consistent here. Most of his contributions are creeping, minimal beats, with nothing as explosive as “Parade” from Tough Luv or Sigel’s “Gotta Have It.” Hamilton does exhibit versatility, however, giving “Tonight,” featuring Dogg Pound member Daz Dillinger, a squeaky, synth-driven beat as convincingly West Coast as anything the guest MC could have produced. Shondrae “Bangladesh” Crawford, the producer responsible for much of 8Ball & MJG’s Living Legends and Ludacris’s early albums, also turns in a beat beneath his abilities on “Same Shit Different Day,” a grating, sluggish track with a stuttering sample that resembles nothing so much as a wheezing donkey. But Swizz Beatz, previously one of the least versatile superproducers in the game, provides one of his increasingly frequent “woah, Swizzy did that?” moments on “Beef.”
Young Gunz are one of the rare acts in pop rap who’s actually at their best on the romantic tracks aimed at female fans (cf. Tough Luv hit “No Better Love”). Brothers From Another takes out ample time to serve that demographic, but misses with “Grown Man Pt. 2” featuring Kanye West and John Legend and “The Way It Goes” featuring Neef’s brother Pooda Brown, who sounds exactly like Neef but somehow worse. They come close to reproducing the magic of “No Better Love” once, though, with “Don’t Keep Me Waiting (Come Back Soon)” featuring Slim from 112 (credited as the entire group), which takes it back to 1986 with the kind of twinkly synths and slap bass that can only be properly achieved with a vintage Lionel Richie sample.
When I buy a Roc-A-Fella album, I always make a point to save the promotional inserts for forthcoming albums, mainly for the entertainment value of the ridiculously inaccurate release dates. One of my favorite inserts trumpets Summer 2003 releases for albums by Sigel and Cam’ron that hit stores only in the past 6 months. The constant delays can be frustrating for fans, but ultimately result in building up anticipation and allowing more time to pile on fresh new tracks. But since label co-founder Jay-Z took his seat as president of Def Jam and assumed full ownership of the Roc dynasty, there seems to be a new policy in action. The first two releases under the Carter Administration, Memphis Bleek’s 534 and Young Gunz’ Brothers From Another, were rushed out with minimal buzz and even less evident effort, posting pathetic first week sales. If the Gunz’ nascent careers survive such an underwhelming, underperforming album, it will only be because Coach Carter finally gives them the real guidance and time they need to not fall flat on their faces.
Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-06-24
Labels: hip hop, some shit I wrote, Stylus