on Stylus today.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.
The Day After
Stylus rating: C
Adjusted rating by reviewer: C+
Whether Twista intended it or not, The Day After is an apt title for the anticlimactic follow-up to a best-selling breakthrough album by a longtime underdog. Last year, the platinum Kamikaze capped off over a decade of minor hits and near misses that had taken him from a novelty artist, best known for a Guinness Book record for the fastest flow in the world, to a respected Chicago rap veteran whose lightening quick guest verses were sought out by damn near everyone North and South of the Mason-Dixon.
The title track that begins The Day After opens with a news reporter saying "We are live at the scene of this tragic accident, where a car has run into a building, the driver has been identified as rapper Twista. Apparently he went Kamikaze. The question is, will the rapper survive?" Then, Chicago soul singer Syleena Johnson begins braying the phrase "you're gonna make it" over and over. This seems to be in reference not to the tour bus accident that Twista was injured in last year, but rather the bizarre story told in the pictures in the liner note booklet for The Day After, in which Twista declares war on a corrupt music industry. So for the purposes of this review, I choose to interpret the album's title as a commentary on Twista's current situation, the metaphorical morning after the biggest hit of his career.
Kamikaze established Twista as a mainstream star with a series of R&B-tinged singles filled with sexual innuendo, an odd feat for a man in his 30's who's unlikely to be seen anytime soon with his shirt off in a video. Twista's always loved juicy, detailed sex raps, and has them down to such a science that one of The Day After's best songs, "I'm A Winner," is pretty much nothing but. His new album repeats Kamikaze's tendency toward soft, romantic material, but with a slightly worse ratio of fluff to fire.
The first sign of The Day After's attempt to replicate Kamikaze's success is the lead single "Girl Tonite," a transparent retread of Twista's 2004 breakout hit. Where the Kanye West-produced "Slow Jamz" cleverly intertwined sex raps with nods to classic R&B over a Luther Vandross sample, "Girl Tonite" samples Ready For The World, one of the groups referenced in "Slow Jamz," and proceeds to reference a dozen more soul singers. Though the song fails at achieving the relaxed, silly vibe of "Slow Jamz," Twista redeems the dull "Girl Tonite" somewhat by dropping hilarious references to "do-it-to-it fluid" and the "reverse cowgirl."
Kanye, a fellow Chicagoan who produced three tracks on Kamikaze, is notably absent from The Day After, leaving Twista with enough of a production budget to call in Scott Storch and the Neptunes. Storch and Pharrell Williams are possibly the most overpaid and, recently, uninspired superproducers in the game right now, and both surprisingly provide The Day After with highlights. Storch takes a break from biting Lil Jon on "Get It How You Live" to take it back to when he was
apprenticing with Dr. Dre, with a dark, dramatic G-funk banger. And Pharrell, who has been squandering the Neptunes' do-no-wrong reputation for the past couple years with weak, wack, wishy-washy beats, actually makes those flimsy acoustic drum sounds snap and pop beautifully on "Lavish," and raps a verse at Twista speed, amazingly not embarrassing himself.
"Heartbeat" switches up the smoother sounds of the album's first half as Twista raps through a monstrously low, pitch-shifting effect to attain a "screw voice" and makes breathy Freddy Kruger sound effects. But then the next track, "Holding Down The Game" concludes by slowing the track down to screwed speed. 2005 will go down as the year that Houston's "screwed and chopped" culture went mainstream, and all damn year we've had albums by artists like Missy Elliott and Kanye West in which they screw a track for a few bars for novelty value. Shit, Erykah Badu even did it in a video back in 2002. There's nothing wrong with a tip of the hat to DJ Screw from non-Houston artists, but when they all do it in the same way that wasn't that clever to begin with, it gets tiresome. And Twista should know better, having made a more subtle reference before, slowing his flow down and drawling "this is for the syrup sippers" on Kamikaze's "Still Feels So Good."
For a few years now, hip-hop stars have been making a sport out of testing out their own doubletime flows on collaborations with Twista. On The Day After, only Lil Kim steps up to the plate with "Do Wrong," which pales in comparison to their previous collaboration, La Bella Mafia's "Thug Luv." Overall, the album's guest list is weighted more toward singers like Mariah Carey and Trey Songz than rappers, which is unfortunate, as Twista has always been at his best when bouncing off of other MC's. And it's telling that the album's best track is the one that features another rapper the most prominently, when Miami's Pitbull steals the spotlight on "Hit The Floor" with his manic Spanglish rhymes. And Ying Yang Twins producer Mr. Collipark, who made waves this year with his "intimate club music" sound, services the track with a decidedly unintimate beat that features the same squeaking siren sounds as David Banner's "Play" to great effect.
Ultimately, The Day After is another middling album from a tremendously talented rapper who will never get the respect he deserves because he's all too eager to make compromised crossover records. That's not to say he should stick with the midwestern goth rap that he still sets aside a few tracks for; he's great at making fun, funny records. But he spends so much time making room for both R&B and gangsta shit on The Day After that there's precious few moments of epic party rap like "Hit The Floor." And even that one you have to wait until the end of the CD to hear.
Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-11-16
Labels: hip hop, some shit I wrote, Stylus